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ITALICA : Studies in Italian Life and Letter*. 


Italy from the Congress of Vienna, 1814, to the 
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Published Octobtr IQJJ 










IN order that readers may not be disappointed in 
their expectations, let me say at the outset that 
this is a personal biography and not a political his- 
tory. The time has not yet come when it would be 
proper to give the names of all witnesses and to cite 
by direct reference the official documents, as is re- 
quired in a formal history. There is also much ma- 
terial in the State Archives of England, France, Ger- 
many, and Russia, which may not be available for 
publication for a long time to come, if ever. So I 
have endeavored to let John Hay tell his own story, 
wherever this was possible. Being in many respects 
an ideal letter-writer, he recorded his impressions so 
freshly and so vividly that he never leaves us in 
doubt as to what he thought of persons, political 
affairs, or life's experiences. My part has been to 
sketch in a sufficient background to render intelli- 
gible each episode or situation, so that Hay's rela- 
tion to it would be clear almost at a glance. 

Shortly after Mr. Hay's death, Mrs. Hay assem- 
bled a considerable mass of his letters to his more in- 
timate correspondents, which she edited with selec- 
tions from his Diaries. She had a few copies of these 


memorials printed privately for distribution among 
friends. Her volumes form the basis of the present 
biography; but I have drawn from a still larger store 
of material, including Mr. Hay's letter-books, docu- 
ments in the Department of State, and files, not only 
of his own letters, but also of those of his official 
colleagues and friends. In addition, many persons 
who knew him in his middle and later life have kindly 
given me their recollections of him. 

Wherever the actual form of word or phrase 
seemed to require exact reproduction, I have printed 
it as he wrote it; but in many cases he used abbrevi- 
ations, and in his Journals even short-hand symbols, 
which I have not hesitated to expand, always taking 
care, however, not to change his meaning. For the 
convenience of the reader should be kept in view, 
when it does not involve the sacrifice of essentials. 
In those volumes which Mrs. Hay edited she scrup- 
ulously substituted capital letters or dashes for all 
the proper names. I have been unable in several 
cases to recover the original letters which she used 
and so I have been obliged to rely upon the version 
which she printed. This will explain the appearance 
here of capital letters and dashes where I could not 
identify the original names; but occasionally I too 
have suppressed names where it seemed advisable to 
do so. 


, It is not possible for me to mention here, as I 
should like to do, all those persons who have assisted 
me in the preparation of this work, but I cannot close 
without making grateful acknowledgment to Mr. 
Hay's daughters, Mrs. Whitney and Mrs. Wads- 
worth; to the Honorable and Mrs. Charles E. Hay; 
to Mr. Samuel Mather; to President Theodore Roose- 
velt; to President William H. Taft; to Senators 
Henry Cabot Lodge and Elihu Root; to the Honor- 
able Henry White, late Ambassador to Italy and to 
France; to the Honorable Joseph H. Choate, late 
Ambassador to Great Britain; to General John W. 
Foster, former Secretary of State; to the Honorable 
Charlemagne Tower, late Ambassador to Germany 
and to Russia; to the Honorable Alvey A. Adee, 
Francis B. Loomis, and William Phillips, Assistant 
Secretaries of State; to the Honorable Herbert W. 
Bowen, former Minister to Venezuela; to Professor 
Harry L. Koopman, Librarian of the John Hay Li- 
brary at Brown University; to Professor Brander 
Matthews; to Admiral and Mrs. F. E. Chadwick; to 
the Honorable Wayne MacVeagh; to Mr. William 
D. Howells; to Mr. James Ford Rhodes; to Dr. W. W. 
Keen ; and to Miss Helen Nicolay. 

Needless to say, the responsibility for all statements 
and opinions rests with me, except in cases where my 
informants have authorized me to give their names. 


As I have been prevented from revising the final 
proofs, I shall be grateful to readers who will notify 
to me any errors they may find. 

The index has been made by Mr. George B. Ives, 
to whom I am also indebted for many suggestions. 

August i, 1915. 

















Addresses Addresses of John Hay. New York, 1907. 
N. & H. -= Abraham Lincoln: A History. By John G. Nicolay 

and John Hay. 10 vols. New York, 1890. 
Poems Poems. By John Hay. Revised Edition. Boston, 1890. 
Poet in Exile A Poet in Exile. Early Letters of John Hay. Edited 
by Caroline Ticknor. Boston, 1910. 


J. G. NICOLAY (photogravure) Frontispiece 

From a photograph, by L. C. Handy, of the original picture in the possession 
of Miss Nicolay in Washington. The original is a photograph retouched 
and with a background painted in watercolor under the direction of Mr. 



SITY 48 



TYSBURG, NOV. 19, 1863 206 


1874 388 




DURING the second half of the nineteenth cen- 
tury, the vicissitudes in the personal fortunes 
of Americans were so swift, and yet so common, 
that contemporaries took them almost as matters 
of course. In truth, however, not since the Eliza- 
bethan age, and then on a much smaller scale, had 
anything similar been seen. It was as if, in the ani- 
mal kingdom, not merely individuals but whole 
varieties should change their nature so rapidly as 
to become scarcely recognizable after the lapse of a 
single generation. The children of privation grew up 
to be masters of untold wealth. An obscure rail- 
splitter became President of the United States, wield- 
ing a power surpassing that of Europe's absolute 
monarchs. And as if the natural expansion over a 
vast continent did not offer sufficient opportuni- 
ties for individual development, there intervened a 
Civil War which served as a ladder for talents which 
lie dormant in peace. 


Among the many who were a part of this process 
of transformation was John Hay. Born the son of a 
frontier doctor, in a small dwelling on the edge of the 
Western wilderness, he died in a palace at Washing- 
ton, as Secretary of State, in the midst of a world 
crisis which his counsel had helped to direct. 

Hay himself, at a dinner of the Ohio Society 
of New York, on January 17, 1903, summed up in 
pleasant fashion the contrasts in his career. "When 
I look back on the shifting scenes of my life," he 
said, "if I am not that altogether deplorable crea- 
ture, a man without a country, I am, when it comes 
to pull and prestige, almost equally bereft, as I am a 
man without a State. I was born in Indiana, I grew 
up in Illinois, I was educated in Rhode Island, and 
it is no blame to that scholarly community that I 
know so little. I learned my law in Springfield and 
my politics in Washington, my diplomacy in Europe, 
Asia, and Africa. I have a farm in New Hampshire 
and desk-room in the District of Columbia. When 
I look to the springs from which my blood descends, 
the first ancestors I ever heard of were a Scotchman, 
who was half English, and a German woman, who 
was half French. Of my immediate progenitors, my 
mother was from New England and my father was 
from the South. In this bewilderment of origin and 
experience, I can only put on an aspect of deep hu- 


mility in any gathering of favorite sons, and confess 
that I am nothing but an American.' 1 1 

An American he was, on both sides of his house, 
but with an heirloom to which theorists in heredity 
might attribute his cosmopolitan affinities. For al- 
though the Hays had their roots in Scotland, one of 
them, in the early part of the eighteenth century, 
took service under the Elector Palatine. What rank 
he held in the Elector's army I do not know, nor 
whether he himself emigrated with the swarm of 
Germans who came over from the Palatinate to 
Pennsylvania about 1 750. Certain it is, however, that 
of his four sons John, the eldest, settled at York, 
Pennsylvania, while Adam went on to Berkeley 
County, Virginia, and made his home at the bottom 
of the Shenandoah Valley. Adam probably did his 
share of Indian fighting; possibly he enlisted in the 
Revolution; at any rate, his son John remembered 
being patted on the head by General Washington. 
This John, born February 13, 1775, growing restive 
under his father's severe treatment, struck out for 
himself at the age of eighteen, joined a party of Vir- 
ginians who tramped across the mountains into Ken- 
tucky, and found an abode at Lexington. There he 
married Jemima Coulter, who bore him fourteen 
children. For thirty-five years he helped to upbuild 
1 Addresses, 219-20. 


that town, which boasted of its refinements and 
intellectual interests; and he had for a neighbor, 
Henry Clay, another Virginian, who also sought his 
fortune in Kentucky soon after John Hay's arrival. 
Hay became one of Clay's followers, hated Andrew 
Jackson and detested slavery. 

The latter antipathy led him in 1830 to cross the 
Ohio River into the free State of Illinois, where he 
established himself at Springfield. That same year 
Abraham Lincoln moved into Sangamon County, and 
as time went on he and the elder Hay were friends. 
Old John Hay died May 20, 1865, having lived "to 
watch Lincoln's funeral pass his windows." 

Among his many children, Charles, born Febru- 
ary 7, 1801, in Fayette County, Kentucky, was edu- 
cated at Lexington, where he received the diploma 
of doctor of medicine, and being, like his father, a 
hater of slavery, he crossed into Indiana in 1830, and 
began to practice his profession in the village of 
Salem, a few miles north of the Ohio River. The 
following year, on October 13, 1831, he married there 
Helen Leonard, 1 three years his junior, a young 
woman of pure New England stock, come into the 
west from Middleboro, Massachusetts, to live with 
her sister. The husband of this sister, John Hay 

1 Born at Aseonet, near New Bedford, Massachusetts, February 


Farnham, was the leading lawyer of Salem and its 

Thus, after four generations of wanderings out 
of Scotland to the Rhenish Palatinate, and thence to 
Pennsylvania, Virginia, Kentucky, and Indiana, the 
Hay line met that of the Leonards, who had emi- 
grated from England to Massachusetts in the days 
of the Stuarts. 

At Salem, John Milton Hay, the third child l of 
Dr. Charles and Helen Hay, was born October 8, 
1838, in a small one-storied brick house, symbolical 
of the straitness of pioneer existence. But out of 
those border cabins, like oaks out of acorns, sprang 
many a man whose life became a part of the nation's 

In 1834, Dr. Hay, in partnership with Royal B. 
Child, issued the Salem Monitor, a newspaper of ap- 
proved Whig views, to which he contributed articles. 
During the Harrison campaign of 1840 he wrote the 

1 The other children were: Edward Leonard, b. Nov. 9, 1832; d. 
Oct. 8, 1840. Augustus Leonard, b. Dec. 2, 1834; served in the Civil 
War, and became captain of the Ninth U.S. Infantry; d. Nov. 12, 
1904. Mary Pierce, born Dec. 17, 1836, married Captain A. C. Wool- 
folk, U.S.A., in 1863; he was later a circuit judge, and died at 
Denver, Colorado, in 1880; she died March 21, 1914. Charles Ed- 
ward, b. March 23, 1841 ; served during the Civil War in the Third 
U.S. Cavalry and on General Hunter's staff; was subsequently 
Mayor of Springfield, Illinois; married Mary Ridgely, May 10, 1865. 
Helen Jemima, b. at Warsaw, Indiana, Sept. 13, 1844; married Har- 
wood O. Whitney in 1870; died June 19, 1873. Dr. Charles Hay 
died at Warsaw, Sept. 18, 1884; his wife died there Feb. 18, 1893. 


political leaders, which show, according to a local 
writer, that he had a thorough knowledge of the is- 
sues of his time and "handled them in a masterly 

Either because Salem offered too narrow a field 
for an energetic young doctor, or because Charles 
Hay was impelled by the desire, common to the 
Western settlers of his time, to move on in search of 
better conditions, he took his family in 1841 to War- 
saw, Illinois. This frontier settlement, perched on 
the banks of the Mississippi, at the head of the navi- 
gation of the great river, and opposite the mouth of 
the Des Moines, counted then only a few hundred 
inhabitants; but the surrounding country was fertile, 
its climate was healthful, and its outlook on Mis- 
souri and the boundless possibilities of the Far West 
seemed to promise that it would become an impor- 
tant distributing center. 

Many years later Hay wrote to a friend: "Towns 
are sometimes absurdly named. I lived at Spunky 
Point on the Mississippi! This is a graphic, classic, 
characteristic designation of a geographical and eth- 
nological significance. But some idiots, just before 
I was born, who had read Miss Porter, 1 thought 
Warsaw would be much more genteel, and so we are 

1 Jane Porter (1776-1850) published, in 1803, Thaddeus of War- 
saw, a romance which had a great vogue for half a century. 


Nicodemussed into nothing for the rest of time. I 
hope every man who was engaged in the outrage is 
called Smith in Heaven." l 

At Warsaw, the young Hays passed their child- 
hood. Their father's practice, which he pursued on 
horseback, led him far up and down the river and 
inland through the neighboring counties. Life was 
undeniably hard. It provided the material necessa- 
ries, but few luxuries; it called for enterprise, cour- 
age, resourcefulness, versatility. The husband must 
be a jack-of -all-trades; the wife must not only per- 
form the duties of cook and maid and housekeeper, 
but nurse and rear the children, and, outside of the 
small towns, she must spin and make the family cloth- 
ing. During the forties of the last century, the cruel- 
est hardships of the pioneer days had been outgrown 
in the Western Illinois settlements, but the railroads 
had not yet brought the conveniences of civilization, 
or opened the way to Eastern markets, or quite dis- 
pelled the brooding sense of isolation which, no mat- 
ter how bravely self-reliance may face it, prevents 
a well-rounded life. 

John Hay himself, in writing of Lincoln, traversed 
the notion, spread by a few survivors, that the pio- 
neers enjoyed a glorious existence. " They see it," he 
says, "through a rosy mist of memory, transfigured 
1 Hay to Miss H. K. Loring, June 30, 1870. 


by the eternal magic of youth. The sober fact is that 
the life was a hard one, with few rational pleasures, 
few wholesome appliances. The strong ones lived, 
and some even attained great length of years; but to 
the many age came early and was full of infirmity 
and pain. If we could go back to what our fore- 
fathers endured in clearing the Western wilderness, 
we could then better appreciate our obligations to 
them." 1 And he cites a letter from Lincoln who, at 
the age of thirty-nine, calls himself an old man. 

We must not, however, confuse the pioneers who 
blazed their way into Indiana, Illinois, and the North- 
west Territory with the successive waves of immi- 
grants from Ireland, Southern Italy, Hungary, Po- 
land, Greece, and Western Asia which latterly have 
at times threatened to submerge our institutions. 
The Irish bog-trotter was as illiterate and bigoted as 
the Calabrian peasant or the Russian serf; while the 
pitiable offscourings of the European capitals surely 
planted the slums in our own cities and rendered 
honest and efficient municipal government an almost 
insuperable task. The pioneers of Indiana and 
Illinois, on the other hand, whether they came 
from Virginia through Kentucky, or from Pennsyl- 
vania down the Ohio, or from New England direct, 
had been nourished on certain common principles. 
1 N. & H., i, 68-69. 


Whether they traced their descent from Cove- 
nanter, Roundhead, or Cavalier, they believed in 
political and religious liberty. They respected trial 
by jury and those other safeguards of the individ- 
ual, which were the cornerstone of Anglo-Saxon 
justice. Their fathers, North and South, had fought 
in the Revolutionary War to uphold the proposition 
that there should be no taxation without repre- 
sentation, and they themselves placed passionate 
trust in popular government. The New England- 
ers brought with them the town meeting and the 
country school. Whoever would might read the Bible 
unforbidden by priest and unprevented by illiteracy. 
Even among the ' poor white trash ' from the South 
there lingered, however dimly, traces of the Anglo- 
Saxon tradition. Young Abraham Lincoln, as be- 
reft of opportunity for culture as any lad in the 
country, had access to the Bible and "The Pil- 
grim's Progress, " ^Esop's "Fables," and "Robinson 
Crusoe," and, a little later, to Shakespeare, Burns, 
and Blackstone's "Commentaries." With the Eng- 
lish Bible and Shakespeare one may inherit not 
only the Anglo-Saxon tradition, but also the world's 
supreme achievements in prose literature, in poetry, 
and in religion. 

No doubt the settlers, men of energy and initia- 
tive, were too busy developing the new country to 


pay much heed to books; but they recognized the 
need of education in technical concerns, and they 
had not wholly lost the respect for learning as an 
ideal which had come down to them from their Brit- 
ish forebears. To them the spoken word was the liv- 
ing word. Lawyers, politicians, preachers, lecturers 
flourished among them. Politics, which involved the 
interpretation of the Constitution and fundamental 
conceptions of morals and humanity, became their 
vital interest. Should Slavery be allowed in the new 
communities? If not, where draw the line of restric- 
tion? If the South persisted in slaveholding, how 
long could the nation survive, half bond, half free? 
Was not the preservation of the Union more impor- 
tant than the welfare of the negro? 

However unequipped with the refinements of civ- 
ilization, a people which, besides conquering for itself 
a home in the wilderness, was earnestly confronting 
such questions, could not be charged with stagnation. 

These were the general conditions, material and 
intellectual, which formed the background of John 
Hay's boyhood; and as his father, grandfather, and 
uncle made their homes in towns which New Eng- 
landers had settled, he grew up in an anti-slavery 

Among the Hay papers the earliest I find are two 


letters from Charles Hay at Salem to his parents at 
Springfield. They are yellow, time-stained docu- 
ments, folded and wafered as was the custom before 
the days of envelopes, without postmark, and with 
the postage, i8f cents each, written in ink on the 
cover. Letter-writing was a costly pleasure then. 
The first letter reads as follows: 

SALEM, Nov. 25th, 1832. 


I presume before this time that you have received 
my former letter and although I have not received an 
answer to it I deem it proper to write you another. 
I hope before this time that you are comfortably 
settled and perhaps nearly or quite ready for busi- 
ness. I shall be gratified to hear from you soon, and 
to hear as much as possible in regard to every par- 
ticular. My chief motive in writing this letter is not 
to inform you that I have received a legacy or a for- 
tune in any other way, but to receive that which 
poor people are much more certain of. On the 9th 
of the present month we had a son born which is of 
course your first grandson; he weighed 7^ pounds 
the day after he was born and is a very thrifty fellow. 
Now I suppose you would like to know what your 
first grandson looks like and I must endeavor to tell 
you. When Helen asked me first whom he looked like 


I said he looked like John; when Cornelia was asked 
whom he looked like she answered like the Dr.'s 
brother John without knowing what had been my 
opinion; his eyes are quite black and his head is 
covered with more hair than I have usually seen [on] 
children at 3 or 6 months old, both he and his mother 
are doing well. His name is Edward Leonard after 
Helen's deceased brother. It would have been John 
had it not been for the circumstance [of] her broth- 
er's death who was a great favourite in the family. 
I hope you are all enjoying health and content- 
ment; you may all expect to have the blues more or 
less for a while but courage will overcome all difficul- 
ties. I will close my letter and wait till I hear from 
you again. 

Your affectionate son 



How much a single letter like that brings with it! 

The only other letter in this earliest packet is 
dated, "Salem Indiana Dec 4th 1834" and addressed 
to "Dear Father and Mother." 

"I have of course something to write, you will 
think; true. Well, what is it; nothing dreadful of 
course or I would not write it; well what is it you will 
say. Why it is simply this that on the morning of the 


2nd inst a stranger came to visit us; and who was it? 
Why he could not tell his name although he was 
neither deaf blind nor dumb; but he has tarried with 
us and for convenience we have agreed to call him 
John Augustus Hay. What, another boy you will 
say. Well, be it so. His weight with the little trap- 
pings about was nine pounds and three quarters full 
2 pounds more than the first born. Well done, say 
you. And both mother and son are doing well in 
every way. . . . 

" I am still in hopes that you can let one of the boya 
come to live with us. I am not sanguine in prom 
ises to myself or others but I think I could get one* 
of them into tolerable good business here before long 
if he would come. Clerks in stores are often wanted 
and there are few native hoosiers who are fitted either 
by education manners or habits for the business. 
Of course merchants are often disappointed or com- 
pelled to take these entirely unfit for the business. 
Even a good overseer in a factory, should their 
feelings incline that way, is often wanted, and good 
wages given. But I will wait till your next letter be- 
fore I say more on the subject. Mr. Farnham's chil- 
dren are still with us and will stay till spring; per- 
haps then they may go to Boston. Our town is 
healthy and business prosperous generally. 
11 Yours affectionately," 


The firstborn son, Edward, lived only a few years: 
the second who was named Augustus Leonard, 
and not John Augustus, as the parents first intended 
was the hero, in youth, and through life, of John 
Hay, the statesman. When he died, on November 
12, 1904, the younger John, then Secretary of State, 
and nearing the end himself, told his grief in a noble 
letter to President Roosevelt. It can best be placed 
here, because it gives what, after half a century, he 
remembered as the brightest aspects of his boyhood. 

Nov. 16, 1904. 

I cannot talk about it so I will write you a word. 
My brother was my first friend and my best. I 
owe him everything. He was only four years older 
than me, but he had a sense of right and of conduct 
which made him seem much older. He was always 
my standard. He was not so quick at his books as I 
was, but far more sure. He taught me my Latin and 
Greek so that I made better recitations than he did, 
and got higher marks which was a gross injustice. 
But he took more interest in my success than in his 
own. He made many sacrifices for me, which, with 
the selfishness of a boy, I accepted as a matter of 
course. He fought my battles. It was ill for the big 
boy whom he caught bullying me. Once I dreamed 


we were Christians thrown to the beasts in the 
Coliseum. He stepped between me and a lion and 
whipped the great cat with his fists, then seized me 
and dragged me through a subterranean passage till 
we came out on the Appian Way. Years afterwards 
when I went to Rome, I looked about to see where 
all that had taken place. It was as clear and vivid 
as any real action of my life. 

He was my superior in every way but one the 
gift of expression. His scholarship was more exact 
than mine. He had wonderful skill with his hands; 
could make better balls, bats, kites, fishing-rods, etc., 
than could be bought in the shops. Once he gathered 
up all the pamphlets in the house, and bound them 
neatly though he had never seen a book-bindery. 
He was as I have been told by those who served 
with him the best company officer and the best 
adjutant in the army. Yet he had no luck in promo- 
tion. His rigid sense of duty forbade him to seek ad- 
vancement, and he sternly forbade me ever to men- 
tion his name at headquarters. I obeyed him because 
I knew he would have refused a promotion which 
came through the solicitation of his friends. 

He was the chief of my tribe, in birth as well as in 
mind and in character. We were not a handsome 
family, the rest of us but he was unusually good- 
looking, tall and straight and brave. 


Now he has left us, and I never had a chance to 
get even with him for all he did for me when we were 
boys. My uncertain health, the weather, and other 
futilities have even kept me away from his funeral. 

I feel remorsefully unworthy of him. 

Yours affectionately. 

Happy the older brother who could inspire such 
memories! happier still the younger, with such a ca- 
pacity for hero-worship! 

Of Hay's childhood and youth at Warsaw there is 
little to record. He attended the public school, taught 
by a Mr. Holmes, and joined in the play of his com- 
panions. Great affection bound the family together. 
Dr. Hay prospered, according to the measure of pros- 
perity of country doctors in the West. Above all, both 
he and his wife saw to it that their children should 
enjoy every procurable means of improvement, and 
the Doctor himself helped John in his Latin. 

From our earliest glimpses of him, John Hay ap- 
pears as an imaginative child. His oldest sister re- 
members that, when he was still a little boy, he had 

II the habit of stringing words together into rhymes." 
His brother Charles tells this incident, which dates 
back to John's sixth or seventh year. One morning 
John came and sat down beside him on a log in front 
of the new brick house their father was building, and 









presently John said: '"I have seen the end of the 
world.' I asked him: 'What did you see there?' He 
replied: 'Nothing, only trees and flowers and some 
birds.' Later on he mentioned this himself, and we 
then understood that it was only the wild forest land 
beyond the reservation, on which had been built, 
in 1814, Fort Edwards on the bank of the Missis- 
sippi River." 

Other anecdotes furnished by his brother Charles 
help us to a further acquaintance. 

"When he was a small boy, a German of educa- 
tion called on my father to ask assistance in forming 
a class for the study of German. John listened with 
a great deal of interest and whispered to his father, 
'I would like very much to study German.' This 
pleased both my father and the German professor, 
and John became a student with the others, who 
were all men grown. John was so small that he would 
occasionally fall asleep during the evening, but he 
surprised them all by showing he had learned his 
lesson and could recite equally well with the best of 
them when awakened." 

The following recollection, like a flash of lightning 
in the night, reveals one of the tragic possibilities of 
life on the borderland of slavery. 

"When we were both quite young," Mr. Charles 
Hay writes, "he [John] told me he was in the base- 


ment of our house, and he .heard a ghost, which spoke 
to him and said: ' Little Master, for the love of God 
bring me a drink of water. 9 John said he was so 
frightened he hurried upstairs and went to his room. 
The next day my father told at the table that three 
runaway slaves had been overtaken by a party of 
officers from Missouri and the slaves had resisted 
arrest, and one was captured and taken back, one of 
the other two was fired upon and killed, and the 
third had been badly wounded, but escaped, leaving 
blood tracks in the wood. I saw my brother John 
staring at me across the supper table, but saying 
nothing. After the meal, he told his father about the 
voice he heard in the basement. My father, John, 
and I went down to investigate, and on a pile of 
kindling wood was the appearance of some one hav- 
ing used this for a bed ; but there was a stain of blood 
nearly eighteen inches in diameter. This was prob- 
ably the blood shed by the runaway slave who had 
escaped capture. What became of the slave after- 
ward, I never heard. Fully forty years afterward I 
asked John if he remembered this occurrence, and he 
replied: ' I will never forget it, and that incident has 
given me a greater horror than anything I ever 
heard or read about slavery.' " 

From the primary school, John, with his older 
brother Leonard, was placed under an Episcopal 


clergyman, the Reverend Stephen Childs, who con- 
ducted a private school at Warsaw. There he began 
Latin and Greek; and perhaps it was Mr. Childs who 
referred to him as "honest and efficient/' praise 
which greatly pleased the boy. " I feel my character 
has been established 'honest and efficient,' " 
he confided to Charles: "this is my pride for my 
after life." " I am glad to hear that John is progress- 
ing so well in his study of Latin," his brother Augus- 
tus writes from St. Louis, on July 17, 1851, to Mr. 
N. W. Bliss, at Warsaw; " but as regards Greek, I ex- 
pect he is somewhat 'lazy'; however, I hope he will 
soon get over that and go ahead." 1 In 1851, John 
was sent to a private academy at Pittsfield, the 
county seat of Pike County, a town which emi- 
grants from Pittsfield, Massachusetts, had settled and 
stamped with genuine Yankee ideals. In that semi- 
nary, kept by Mr. and Mrs. John D. Thomson, he 
met John George Nicolay, a Bavarian by birth, his 
elder by six years, who was destined to have a deci- 
sive influence on his career. " We all remember John 
Hay at that time," one of his boyhood companions 
wrote in 1898, "as a red-cheeked, black-eyed, sun- 

1 For this letter, I am indebted to Mr. Nelson Thomasson, of 
Chicago. He says that Mr. Bliss tutored John for Brown Univer- 
sity, and subsequently became eminent at the Chicago bar. Augus- 
tus Hay seems in 1851 to have been employed in an apothecary's 
shop in St. Louis. 


shiny boy, chock-full of fun and devilment that hurt 
nobody. ... He spoke German like a native, having 
picked it up, just as he gathered an inexhaustible 
repertoire of 'river slang' from the Mississippi River 
steamboatmen, which served its turn later on in the 
4 Pike County Ballads/ " 1 In 1852, Hay went on to 
the college at Springfield a promotion which might 
well seem to the lad as the introduction to a larger 
world. For Springfield was the capital of Illinois, 
and when the legislature sat, the town bustled with 
politicians, attorneys, lobbyists, and business men. 
The boom in railroad-building had begun. At all 
times visitors were coming and going on legal or 
judicial errands. In the streets you might meet men 
of more than local reputation: Senator Stephen A. 
Douglas, the "Little Giant," who was trying, with 
apparent success, to serve the God of Freedom and 
the Mammon of Slavery; or gaunt, lanky Abraham 
Lincoln, with his backwoods manner, and strange, 
sad eyes, and the gifts of humor and direct speech 
which already made him a prominent figure through- 
oi|t the State; or Lyman Trumbull and David Davis, 
leaders in Illinois, whose eyes were turned to the 
national stage in Washington. 
For such a quick-witted youth as John Hay, a 

1 W. E. Norris, in the Pike County Democrat; quoted in the Cen- 
tury Magazine, N.S., vol. LVI, p. 449. Morris's recollection of the 
color of Hay's eyes is inaccurate. 


small capital like the Springfield of those days was 
more educative than a great city could be. A young 
community, where individuals stand on their own 
merits, and society is not yet stratified into classes, 
comes very soon to form an accurate estimate of 
character; and Springfield also laid open before him 
the machinery of a republic in operation. Presum- 
ably, he listened occasionally to debates in the legis- 
lature, or went to the court-house when some sensa- 
tional trial was up, or applauded the anti-slavery 
stump speakers during the political campaigns; for he 
had a healthy curiosity to see how the world was 
run, and to watch those who ran it. He must have 
known the celebrities, at least by sight, and he must 
have heard his uncle and grandfather utter candid 
opinions about natives and strangers alike. 

In the college at Springfield, which was really no 
more than a preparatory school, Hay studied so well 
that, by the spring of 1855, he began to think of 
going to a university. His schoolmates envied his 
capacity for " getting his lessons without appar- 
ently any study." An unusual memory enhanced 
his innate brightness. He was "bookish," in that 
he devoured books for pleasure, but he was no 
grind. Full of life and spirits, he entered eagerly 
into the modest gayeties the "sociables, picnics, 
and dances" of Springfield. 


So Hay went back to Warsaw, his schooling over, 
to discuss with his parents his future career. As the 
'scholar 1 of the family, all agreed that he must con- 
tinue his education at a university. The New Eng- 
land tradition imposed that, even if Dr. and Mrs. 
Hay had had other intentions for him. They de- 
cided that he should go to Brown University, at 
Providence, Rhode Island, where Mrs. Hay's father, 
David Augustus Leonard, had graduated as Class 
Orator in 1792. His uncle, Milton Hay, who had 
paid for his education during the past four years, 
promised to support him through college, and ac- 
cordingly, towards the end of the summer, John jour- 
neyed eastward in order to matriculate at Brown 
when the first term of the academic year began, on 
Friday, September 7, 1855. He still lacked a month 
of being seventeen years old. 




I HERE is a story that John Hay planned to 
enter Harvard, as being the oldest, most dis- 
tinguished, and best equipped of American univer- 
sities; but that when he stopped over at Providence 
to visit Brown, the attractions of that institution, 
and the recollection of his grandfather Leonard's 
career there, so impressed him that he went no 
farther. From a letter he wrote at the time, however, 
we can separate fact from legend. 

BROWN UNIVERSITY, September 30, 1855. 


As I am now all completely settled and arranged 
for the term, I proceed to give you notice of this im- 
portant fact and to let you know I still am an inhabi- 
tant of earth. I had a whirling, hustling time on the 
way here, but at last arrived without any accident 
on Tuesday evening, safe and sound in everything, 
except my eyes, mouth and ears were full of cinders 
and dust. Saw nothing on the way so remarkable as 
the miserable soil of Michigan and a part of Canada 
and Massachusetts. To one foot of soil there were 


about three feet of cobblestones and in the clacks 
weakly, consumptive-looking corn was struggling 
for life. Such corn as a sucker farmer would cut 
down and hide for fear it would hurt the reputation 
of his farm. In Canada I noticed a great profusion 
of bull-headed Englishmen, free negroes, and Indian 

I came into Boston about four o'clock in the after- 
noon Tuesday. Bought a mince pie for three cents 
and a cake for two, and feasted royally. Taking the 
cars for Providence, arrived there in a couple of 
hours. Went to a hotel, and after supper walked up 
to the college, found Billy Norris and moved my 
traps up forthwith. The next morning was examined, 
admitted and commenced my studies, which are 
Chemistry, Rhetoric, and Trigonometry. The first 
two are by lectures which we are required to take 
down as they are delivered and recite the next day. 
We also have exercises in speaking and writing 

My room is a comfortable and conveniently fur- 
nished one on the second floor of the college, costing 
about 50 dollars. My chum is a young man from the 
State of New York, steady, studious, and good 
scholar, so I stand a chance of doing a good deal of 
hard study this winter. It is not here as in Spring- 
field. Here I am acquainted with no one in the city 


and have no inducements to leave the college, while 
in Springfield my circle of acquaintance was far 
from limited, and entirely too agreeable for my own 

I shall wish often this winter, that I could light in 
Springfield for a few hours and then evaporate, but 
so mote it not be, and I do not know whether I will 
come back to Illinois next summer or not. That is 
too far ahead to look at present. 

My best love to all, Grandpa, aunts, uncles, cou- 
sins, and cats and all inquiring friends. 

J. M. HAY. 

Tell Aunt Deniza that while I was passing 
through Canada I looked for the handsome features 
of Josiah Condell at every station, but, to my great 
regret saw them not. 

Somebody write soon soon do you hear? 

To an imaginative youth, come from the mush- 
room communities of the West, Brown University, 
founded nearly a century before, seemed venerable; 
and Providence, with about fifty thousand inhabi- 
tants and a past stretching back to 1636, was both 
ancient and robust. 

The city ranked second in size among those of 
New England. It possessed thriving industries, rail- 


ways, and steamboats, and a general high level of ma- 
terial well-being. The defects of industrialism had 
not yet pushed menacingly to the front; nor had im- 
migrant labor swarmed in, bringing its indigestible 
alien survivals. How uniformly American the pop- 
ulation was, appears from the fact that out of the 
fifty-three churches in the city only six were Roman 
Catholic. Providence alternated with Newport as 
the seat of the capital of Rhode Island an honor 
which added political importance to her commercial 

But not on the material side only was Providence 
fortunate. The place itself, which Roger Williams had 
chosen to be the home of the first settlement in Amer- 
ica dedicated to toleration, was by nature very beau- 
tiful. Narragansett Bay, freshened by the breezes 
of the Atlantic, ended there in a partly enclosed har- 
bor which divided the city; and several small rivers 
flowed seaward through the hills which, ranged in an 
irregular semicircle, formed the background. The resi- 
dences of the well-to-do and rich rose amid luxuriant 
foliage along the slopes or on the crests. There was 
evidently great prosperity, but little display. No 
amount of wealth could dim the luster of the old 
families, many of which were themselves rich ; and the 
presence of the college teachers served as an intel- 
lectual leaven for society and possibly as a rebuke 


to vulgar extravagance. The well-stocked Athe- 
naeum Library, supported by private subscription, 
was a favorite resort; while here and there some 
person had begun to collect rare books, or paintings, 
or prints, or to regard it as his duty to contribute 
to the expansion of the University. 

In a word, Providence was at that happy stage 
when it still preserved its individuality, and had not 
become for travelers merely a railroad junction be- 
tween New York and Boston. It displayed a lively 
civic consciousness, and it felt both the buoyancy 
which belonged to communities then in the heyday 
of industrial development, and the sense of satis- 
faction which comes when material prosperity has 
not yet dulled respect for spiritual and intellectual 
ideals. Providence was large enough to put forth 
and sustain the organs through which a community 
enjoys in some measure a varied civilization; but 
not so large as to lose its social solidarity, much less 
its identity. Like Portsmouth, Worcester, and two 
or three other provincial centers of old New England, 
it seemed a microcosm of many of the New England 

Although a Baptist institution by origin and di- 
rection, Brown University adhered to that provision 
of its charter which forbade religious tests and de- 
clared that all its members should "forever enjoy 


full, free, absolute, and uninterrupted liberty of con- 
science." In 1855 the students numbered only two 
hundred and twenty-five, and the faculty only nine, 
but smallness did not mean lack of vitality. The 
students came from all parts of the country, and some 
of the professors ranked among the best of their 
generation. With classes of from thirty-five to sixty- 
five members, a student must have been a hopeless 
mollusk who did not know all his classmates, and, 
indeed, most of the men in the University. The con- 
ditions favored wide acquaintanceship, close com- 
mon interests, and intimate friendships: and be- 
tween the students and some of their teachers 
friendly relations sprang up outside the classroom. 

The curriculum provided by Brown aimed at 
what used to be called a liberal education. It laid 
stress on Latin and Greek and mathematics, but it 
recognized the French and German classics and the 
modern sciences chemistry, physiology, geology, 
and political economy which were crowding their 
way to the front in spite of their treatment as par- 
venus by the classicists. The term for Master of 
Arts was five years, for Bachelor four years, and for 
Bachelor of Philosophy three years. The last course, 
designed for those students "who are intended for 
the pursuits of active life," hoped to "confer a high 
degree of intellectual culture, without the necessity 


of studying the Ancient Languages." 1 Clearly, 
Brown University, like the other American colleges 
of that period, wished to make " scholars and gentle- 
men," not specialists in any narrow field of research, 
or engineers, doctors, or lawyers. It accepted as 
its task the furnishing of those essentials without 
which the specialist is doomed to remain an unculti- 
vated man. 

John Hay took up his quarters in Number 19, 
University Hall, with Wallace W. Corbett 2 as room- 
mate. Being admitted to advanced standing, he 
escaped most of the usual trials of a Freshman. At 
his arrival, he attracted attention by being out of 
style in his clothes and appearance: the fellows 
dubbed it "Western." He wore his thick shock of 
brown hair long, cut horizontally like a Roundhead's, 
and coiled about his ears. His features had not taken 
on their mature definiteness: the slightly turned- 
up nose, the pouting lips, still suggested the lad; but 
his forehead was already large and deep, and his 
hazel eyes at once arrested attention. "They were 
eyes," one of his intimates of those years tells me, 
"which you could look into for a mile, and they 
looked through and through yours." They were the 
eyes of the young man who sees visions, of the bud- 

1 Brown University Catalogue, 1855-56. 
* From Bridgewater, New York. 


ding poet rapt by the beauty his imagination unfolds 
to him. 

One other letter pertaining to Hay's first year in 
college deserves to be quoted entire. 

BROWN UNIVERSITY, November 28th [1855] 


To-morrow is Thanksgiving. We have no lessons 
this week and many of the students have gone home. 
I thought that when this time came I would have 
plenty of time to catch up with my correspondence 
and make some excursions to the surrounding coun- 
try. But here half the week is gone and I have done 
nothing at all. The fact is, I am so much occupied 
with my studies that when a few days of release come 
I cannot make a rational use of my liberty. You 
know I entered the Junior Class behind the rest, and 
consequently have several studies to make up before 
I can be even with them. And as the prescribed 
studies are about as much as I can attend to, I do 
not know whether I can finish the course, with just- 
ice, in two years. I think I can graduate in that time, 
but will not stand high, or know as much about 
the studies as if I had been more leisurely about 
it. Again, if I go through so hurriedly, I will have 
little or no time to avail myself of the literary trea- 
sures of the libraries. This is one of the greatest 


advantages of an Eastern College over a Western 

This matter, however, I leave for you and Pa to 
decide; but you may be assured that whatever time 
I remain here I am determined to show you that 
your generous kindness has not been misapplied or 
ungratefully received. I am at present getting along 
well in my class. The Register tells me that I stand 
in the first class of honor, my average standing being 
1 8 in 20. The life here suits me exactly. The profes- 
sors are all men of the greatest ability, and what is 
more, perfect gentlemen. They pursue a kind and 
friendly course toward the students as long as they 
act in a manner to deserve it, but any violations of 
the rules of the institution are strictly punished. 
There have been several expulsions and suspensions 
since I came here. 

I have no acquaintances out of the college, con- 
sequently know very little of the city. There is not 
much excitement here on any occasion, except 
Thanksgiving and Training-Day, and then it is a 
quiet Yankee excitement as much as possible unlike 
the rough, hearty manner of the West. 

I heard Oliver W. Holmes deliver a poem here last 
week, which [was] a splendid thing; also a lecture by 
Professor Huntingdon. Thackeray will be here be- 
fore long and I expect to hear him lecture. 


It is getting very late and I close this excuse for a 
letter with my best regards for all the family and all 
my friends in Springfield. 

P.S. Thursday morning. I have just received 
and read with pleasure Aunt D.'s and Cousin S.'s 
letter. Augustus has only written once to me since 
I have been here. I am anxious to hear from him. 

P.P.S. Please remit at your earliest convenience 
some of "the root of all evil," alias, "tin," alias, 

P. P. P.S. Some one write soon and I will answer 

P. P. P. P.S. I will return good for evil and answer 
Cousin Sarah on a whole sheet, instead of a few 
lines at the end of this. 

P.P.P.P.P.S. I received a letter from Dad lately. 

P.P.P.P.P.P.S. That is all. 

Yours truly, 

J. M. HAY. 

Hay's family saw the wisdom of not forcing him 
to rush through his college education in two years; 
and as the generous uncle pledged the necessary 





tfj Q, 

* 3 


2 g 






support, he soon settled into the Class of 1858 as a 
Sophomore, with leisure to read and also to play, 
as fancy dictated. 

If some of the " intellectual bullies" were inclined 
at first as a contemporary reports to heckle the 
awkward Westerner, they soon learned that they 
could neither intimidate him nor rouse his anger, and 
that he was quite their match in wit. Good-natured 
by temperament, he held himself somewhat re- 
served except with those whom he knew well. His 
intimates remembered his flashes of fun, his cozy 
friendliness, his brilliance as a talker, his moments 
of exhilaration followed by fits of depression, which 
recurred throughout his life. That he had little 
money to spend, did not shut him out from comrade- 
ship; nor did his studiousness, which was that of the 
dilettante and not that of the pedant. Without any 
ambition to head the rank list, he stood well in 
his classes. The person who knew him best in those 
days says that he was "very humble." Perhaps he 
was already contrasting his unfledged talents with 
the soaring achievements of the masters whom he 
worshiped. The college library, where he browsed 
at will, " meant more to him as an undergraduate 
than all the rest of the college." And no wonder, for 
the college instruction, even in the elective courses, 
was conducted wholly by recitation, and what that 


was can be inferred from this reminiscence fur- 
nished me by Hay's classmate, the Reverend J. H. 

"The method of studying English literature which 
existed at Brown fifty-odd years ago was not one 
which tended to stimulate literary enthusiasm. We 
had six pages of advance, six pages of immediate 
review, and six pages of back review in Spalding's 
'English Literature,' to be recited every Friday 
afternoon throughout the Junior year; and there 
you were. Why, one of my classmates, who gradu- 
ated summa cum laude, told me that he had never 
read one of Shakespeare's plays, and that he had 
'never consciously read a line of Tennyson's,' al- 
though 'In Memoriam' was published in 1850." 

To a youth who was feeding his imagination on 
Shelley, those weekly exercises in Spalding's tread- 
mill could not have been inspiring. At least one of 
his teachers, however, Professor James B. Angell, 
subsequently, President of the University of Michi- 
gan, both stirred Hay's enthusiasm and recog- 
nized his ability. They read together several of the 
great French and German masterpieces, and Hay 
proved the best translator Dr. Angell ever had in 
his classes. Marks give only an uncertain indication 
of capacity, especially when we do not know the 
interaction of teacher and pupil which determines 


marks; but it is odd to discover that Hay stood 
highest in political economy (under Professor Wil- 
liam Gammell), which he elected during his last 
half-year in college. As his standing improved year 
by year, we infer that his growing zeal in interests 
outside the classroom did not cause him to scamp 
his studies. 1 

But from first to last Hay was evidently one of 
those youths whose college career cannot be summed 
up by marks. His fellows quickly discovered his un- 
usual qualities of wit and good-nature and thought- 
fulness. At the first Freshman dinner, the toast- 
master, after calling on everybody who wished to 
speak, summoned Hay to his feet. "We don't want 
anything dry," a youth shouted. " Hay that is green 
can never be dry," the unfashionable stranger from 
Illinois retorted; and then he poured out a sparkling 
speech, which delighted his enthusiastic hearers and 
made his reputation. How suddenly those college 

1 I am indebted to the Registrar of Brown University for the follow- 
ing record of Hay's standing. 1855-56. First semester. Chemistry, 
19.50; mathematics, 17.01; rhetoric, 18.65. Second semester. 3 Latin, 
19-37; physics, 19.21; rhetoric, 18.79; 3 Greek, 18.90. 1856-57. 
First semester. French, 19.00; German, 19.32; moral philosophy, 
14-93; declamations, 19.00. Second semester. Moral philosophy, 17.25; 
French, 19.12; German, 19.83. 1857-58. First semester. History, 
19.83; intellectual philosophy, 19.45. Second semester. History, 
19.64; moral philosophy, 19.35, political economy, 19.95- These are 
half-yearly averages, based on a possible total of 20 for each study. 
Hay's rank for the three years admitted him to the Phi Beta Kappa 


reputations shoot up under the influence of song and 
wine and comradeship! 

That was the era when Greek letter fraternities 
ran riot in American colleges. Among undergradu- 
ates the rage for secret societies seems to be as in- 
curable as is falling in love. Who does not remember 
the preliminary suspense, the weeks or months in 
which you wondered whether you would be chosen, 
and, if chosen, by which fraternity? You heard that 
Brown "was sure" of the A.B.C., that Green had 
been approached by the D.E.F., that Gray's grand- 
father had been president of the X.Y.Z., that White 
had a cousin in the Tiger's Claw or the Shark's Skull. 
Although you lacked any similar favoring connec- 
tion, yet you could not help feeling that you were 
quite as desirable as Brown or Green or Gray. At 
last an emissary came to sound you for the X.Y.Z. 
Genuinely surprised, you accepted with fervor, 
while protesting that you knew you were not worthy 
of so great an honor. 

Then followed the preparations for your initiation 
and your dread lest you might flinch during the ter- 
rible ordeal; until you comforted yourself by the re- 
flection that if Timkins, notoriously puny of body 
and feeble of will, had gone through, you might hope 
to do likewise. Of the initiation itself, the fright- 
ful tortures, the harrowing tests of endurance, the 


oaths more awful than those uttered in the court- 
room or at the altar, and the sense of omniscience 
which permeated you when you heard the meaning 
of the mystic Greek letters, these are matters 
never to be revealed to the profane. How joyfully 
you called each fellow member " Brother," and how 
suddenly you discovered all sorts of attractions in 
even the most commonplace of them! What a thrill 
passed through you when you tried the grip on an 
upper classman, and he responded, and you fell to 
exchanging confidences as if you had been babies 
together! However modest you were, you could not 
doubt that the whole college must see at a glance 
that a great change had been wrought in you over- 
night, and that, although you wore no visible halo, 
you were indubitably one of the elect. 

Looking backward, sifter many years, you smile 
at the exaggerations of that experience; but your 
smile is wistful and tender, rather than satirical, for 
you recognize that the secret society was but one of 
the forms of glamour by which you were led from 
adolescence into manhood. The glamour passes; the 
sweetness of the memory of youth itself abides. And 
you reserve your sarcasm for those silly dotards who 
in after life hold their society pins more sacred than 
wife and children, or leave the room if any out- 
sider whispers the name of their society. The best of 


fraternities have serious drawbacks, but they have 
also compensating positive benefits, the chief being 
opportunity for friendship. 

Coming to Brown as a stranger, John Hay had not 
been pledged to any of the competing fraternities. 
But we learn that "his sterling worth" soon gave 
the " intellectual bullies " pause. " Nor had he been 
long matriculated," says his fraternal biographer, 
" before Brothers Burdge and Simons, looking deeper 
into character, saw in him the future development 
of a strong nature." Accordingly, those discerning 
brothers "made it their study to place before Hay 
the great advantages over all other societies which 
were to be found under the protecting aegis of the 
Theta Delta Chi Fraternity." 

Hay was persuaded, and was initiated at a cere- 
mony of extraordinary solemnity, which Brothers 
French and Taylor attended from Tufts College, 
and Brother Alexander L. Holley ("who had already 
become famous"!) from New York. A right royal 
Theta Delta supper followed at the " What-Cheer," 
where Pond and French made their happiest 
speeches, Depew "never equaled them," and 
Brother Hay responded to everybody's satisfaction. 

"The next morning," continues Brother Stone, 
the chronicler, "imagine the horror (yes, that word 
exactly expresses it) of the members of the rival 


fraternities when they saw Hay come into chapel, 
escorted by Burdge and myself, wearing the Shield 
with the emblematical letters 6AX, emblazoned on 
its sable field! Notwithstanding the awful presence 
of President Wayland and the august professors, 
an universal and audible howl went up from the op- 
position, which evoked a corresponding cheer from 
our side. The triumph was complete; and Dr. Way- 
land, pushing his spectacles up from his nose onto 
his brow, was constrained to stand some moments 
till the commotion had subsided, before offering up 
his interrupted orisons." l 

So vividly, after the lapse of half a century, did the 
recollection of John Hay's capture by Theta Delta 
Chi lie in the memory of Brother Stone an in- 
dication of the importance attached by undergrad- 
uates to their societies and clubs! Hay proved 
himself a loyal Theta Delt. His wit enlivened the 
meetings and suppers; he wrote verses abundantly, 
one of his poems being sung at every reunion; 2 

1 W. L. Stone in The Shield, xxi, 319-20 (September, 1905); organ 
of the Theta Delta Chi Fraternity. 
1 The final stanza of this is: 

" And if, perchance, one sadder line 

May mingle with the strain, 
For those, the lost, whose loving voice 

We ne'er shall hear again; 
Let this rejoice the heavy heart, 

And light the dimming eye; 
The Gates of Eden are not dosed 

To Theta Delta Chi!" 


and he formed lifelong associations with many of the 
brothers. A few years later, while serving as Secre- 
tary to President Lincoln, he saved from undeserved 
execution two Theta Delts; and afterwards, when 
he had risen to a position of great influence, he never 
forgot the claims of members of his fraternity. 

But Johnny Hay as his intimates called him 
was too healthy-minded to be puffed up or spoiled 
even by the honor of election to Theta Delta Chi. 
During his first winter vacation, he writes his moth- 
er: "I am enjoying myself very well here, reading 
the newspapers, etc., writing a batch of letters, and 
loafing around in the city reading-rooms, varying 
these amusements with a quiet game of dominoes 
with Ed Morris. 1 . . . Certainly one of the greatest 
advantages of an Eastern college is the society into 
which a student is thrown. We live in a perfectly 
independent way, choose our own associates and our 
own mode of life, and if we belong to a secret society 
we have never any need of friends. Our society em- 
braces many whom I shall be proud to know in after 
life, and whose friendship I now consider a 'feather 
in my cap. 1 " 2 

1 Edgar R. Morris, of Quincy, Illinois. 

1 Hay to his mother, February 6, 1856. This seems to be one 
of the few early letters of Hay to his family that have not been 
destroyed. Not long before his death he burned all his home letters 
that he could find. 


The more we see of him at Brown, the more we 
find him normally sensible, if, indeed, to be sen- 
sible be normal. Possessing a good mind, with a 
natural hunger for literature, and especially for 
poetry, he read with zest; having also the desire to 
write, he used his pen freely, joyously, and with such 
success that he earned the reputation of being the 
best undergraduate writer in college. Over his ad- 
miring intimates his conversation cast a spell. With 
uncritical but pardonable enthusiasm they hailed 
him as "a young Dr. Johnson without his boorish- 
ness, or a Dr. Goldsmith without his frivolity." But 
while he inclined to intellectual pursuits, and per- 
haps got his keenest pleasure from them, he took 
part gladly, as has been hinted here, in undergrad- 
uate fun. 

11 ' In those days, all text was memorized,' Mr. 
Norris relates; 'and it was the general opinion that 
Hay put his book under his pillow and had the con- 
tents thereof absorbed and digested by morning, for 
he was never seen " digging," or doing any other act or 
thing that could be construed into hard study. His 
quick perception, ready grasp of an idea and won- 
derfully retentive memory, made a mere pastime of 
study. His enthusiasm was boundless, and his love 
for and appreciation of the beautiful in nature and 
in art was acutely developed. If he was smitten with 


she was a poetess Mrs. Sarah Helen Whitman " ; l 
and ten years later, when Hay went to Brown, this 
poetess held a place apart, both on account of her 
own productions and of her brief engagement to Poe. 
Although Mrs. Whitman, well on toward the middle 
fifties, might seem rather a dowager-like muse, she 
still kept alive the embers of passion, and she had the 
art of impressing those who knew her as an unusual 
person. It certainly was not genius, it might well be 
talent, that distinguished her. Handsome in youth, 
she kept her good looks into old age, and she let slip 
no means which might heighten the indefinable qual- 
ity that attracted even strangers to her. She dressed 
always in white, and she appears to have sprinkled 
her garments with ether, instead of cologne or other 
perfume, which shed a fragrance suggestive of a 
neurotic condition in the wearer. 

Toward the end of his college days, Hay was 
privileged to know Mrs. Whitman. She evidently 
appreciated his winning nature and lively wit, and 
looked very kindly upon his verses: but she was not 
an injudicious flatterer. She criticized frankly, and 
he accepted the criticism gratefully; for he was 
"very humble" in the presence of those whom he 
regarded as his superiors; and Mrs. Whitman's inter- 
est seemed to him an almost incredible favor. In his 

1 G. E. Woodberry, Edgar Allan Poe (Boston, 1909), n, 265. 


letters to her after quitting Brown, he addressed her 
simply, " Mrs. Whitman," as if he dreaded to appear 
familiar or presuming. His reverence for her was 
unfeigned. " If I had had the honor of knowing you 
earlier," he writes, " I would have had less to regret 
in my collegiate course." l 

The so-called romance of Mrs. Whitman's middle 
life her bizarre relation with poor Poe, already 
ruined by drink and laudanum added to her im- 
pressiveness; but Hay had probably read Poe's 
poems and tales before he met her. Among his un- 
dergraduate pieces several show Poe's influence. The 
following stanzas, unpublished so far as I know, 
might easily pass for one of Poe's pot-boilers: 

" In a glimmering Kingdom of woe 

On a plain demon-haunted I lie, 
And the specters that glide to and fro 
With their wings blot the joy of the sky. 

"Let thy spirit shed o'er me the light 

That it gained from the Father above, 
And my soul shall come out of the night 
To the sunshine of Infinite Love." 2 

His acquaintance with Mrs. Whitman, the " priest- 
ess" at whose feet he sat, came at the end of Hay's 
Senior year. Almost at the same time he knew Nora 

1 From an unpublished letter in Brown University Library. 
1 MS. in Brown University Library. 


Perry, a young poetess who had achieved local fame 
when the recently established Atlantic Monthly 
printed two or three of her poems. She, too, was 
drawn to the sympathetic youth, with his sparkling 
gifts. Although she was only five or six years his 
elder, he treated her with almost pathetic deference. 
"The very fact of your writing to me," he says, 
in reply to a letter from her, "proved that you had 
an opinion of my powers which I might vainly strive 
to justify; and when I read the poems which you 
added, I was still more embarrassed in view of my 
situation. I despair of ever carrying on a correspond- 
ence on terms in any degree approaching equality 
with one whose mental plane is so far above my 


We hear of a Dr. Helme and other congenial mem- 
bers of the literary coterie, and of that erratic Celt, 
and future eulogist of Walt Whitman, William Doug- 
las O'Connor, with whom Hay had cordial relations. 
Among his teachers, he found a hospitable welcome 
from Professor Angell, and when the students pre- 
sented a cradle to the professor's first-born child, 
Hay wrote some lively verses, loaded with puns, 
which they sang to the tune of "Cocachelunk" and 
to the satisfaction of the Angells. Brown had two 
literary societies, of which the Philermenian elected 

1 Poet in Exile, p. 17; October 12, 1858. 


Hay its vice-president. He was an editor of the 
Brown Paper, an undergraduate journal, and to 
its first number (November, 1857) he contributed 
"Sa! Sa!" a parody on Emerson's "Brahma," be- 

"If the hazed Freshman thinks he's hazed, 
And that he's passed his hazing pain; 
He's sold too high his hopes are raised, 
The Soph 'more goes but comes again." 

Hay's parody, like many another, tickled brains 
that had never quite understood the original. 

His classmate, Gilmore, relates an incident which 
illustrates Hay's inquiring disposition: 

"On one occasion, at least, his enthusiasm for 
literature was carried to excess. 'The Hasheesh- 
Eater' had recently appeared (1857); and Johnny 
must needs experiment with hasheesh a little, and 
see if it was such a marvelous stimulant to the im- 
agination as Fitzhugh Ludlow affirmed. 'The night 
when Johnny Hay took hasheesh ' marked an epoch 
for the dwellers in Hope College. It's fifty-six years 
ago; but I remember it well/' 

During his Junior and Senior years, Hay roomed 
at 44 Hope College. His life with his cronies grew 
more delightful term by term. His class recognized 
his ability by electing him Class Poet. Every one 
thought of him as of a fellow who would neither do 


a mean act nor tolerate it. As an indication of the 
happy memory his college contemporaries had of his 
chivalry, the story went the rounds, not long before 
he died, that at Brown he had rescued a Freshman 
named Gordon who was being smoked out by Sopho- 
mores. On being appealed to for the facts, Hay, then 
Secretary of State, replied that he did n't remember. 
"But," he added playfully, "my recollections of 
everything in those far-off days is dim, and heroism 
was my daily habit. I could n't sleep nights if I 
had n't saved somebody's life. Now I only save a 
nation now and then." l 

So the last months of his college life glided happily 
by. Secure in his classmates' good-will and esteem, 
he enjoyed also the deeper satisfaction of being ad- 
mitted to the group of literary men and women who 
lisped the language of his ideals. The only cloud 
that hung over him was the realization that he must 
soon renounce all this and go back to the West, 
which he had learned to loathe. There are also hints 
of a love-affair which made parting still harder. 

On Class Day, June 10, 1858, he read his poem at 
Manning Hall to an audience which was enchanted 
by it. "His theme," says one reporter, "was 'The 
Power of Song/ [and] was marked by a fertility of 
conception, a depth of sensibility, and a power of 
1 Brown Monthly, February, 1906; pp. 141-42. 



poetic expression, which we have rarely heard 
equaled, and never surpassed, at any of our literary 
anniversaries. It was agreeably enlivened by pas- 
sages of keen wit and of pleasing humor, and was, 
in every respect, a most scholarly and brilliant per- 
formance." According to another hearer, "the effort 
caused tears and deafening applause to succeed each 
other during its delivery." The recollection of Hay's 
triumph lived on, and to-day it has become a tradi- 
tion at Brown that no class poem ever matched his. 
Old men can still recite for you its concluding lines, 
which he cast in a stately and sonorous metre: 

i "Where'er afar the beck of fate shall call us, 

'Mid winter's boreal chill or summer's blaze, 
Fond memory's chain of flowers shall still enthrall us, 

Wreathed by the spirits of these vanished days: 
Our hearts shall bear them safe through life's commotion; 

Their fading gleam shall light us to our graves; 
As in the shell the memories of ocean 
Murmur forever of the sounding waves." 

That evening there was a Class Supper at Hum- 
phrey's; then, packing and good-byes. Hay always 
kept a loyal and even affectionate regard for his 
classmates, but he came back only once to their re- 
unions, and many years elapsed before he revisited 
Brown. He received the degree of Doctor of Laws 
in 1 897.* For the centennial of the University in 
1 His degree at graduation was Master of Arts. 



JOHN HAY did not linger in Providence to re- 
ceive his diploma at the Brown Commencement, 
which came in September, but he journeyed home 
by slow stages, stopping here and there to pay 
visits. That he had made an unusual impression on 
his college mates and teachers cannot be questioned, 
although a biographer must be on his guard against 
the natural tendency to magnification which the 
contemporaries of an illustrious man fall into when 
they look back. Hay's Class Poem and enough of 
his other verses remain to show that he fairly earned 
his distinction at Brown; and, although we cannot 
fail to regret that he destroyed his youthful letters 
home, we can surmise from other fragments and 
hints how his inner life was unfolding. He returned 
to Warsaw transformed from an expectant lad into 
a young man who believed that he had discovered 
his mission. Unfortunately for his peace of mind, 
that mission was as unadapted to his surroundings 
as a "rainbow to Wall Street." 

Wanting to be a poet and a man of letters, Hay 
felt within himself the capacity therefor; and he 


dreamed that laurels awaited him. Whether they 
did or not, he knew that any other achievement 
would be empty compared with the satisfaction of 
serving the Muse. But although Illinois was pouring 
millions into the lap of many a business man or " rail- 
road magnate," it would not then have furnished a 
daily mess of porridge to either a Milton or a Byron. 

Hay's family welcomed him with joyful pride; yet 
even their affection could not supply what his en- 
kindled nature now craved. His thoughts were fixed 
continually on the "good-bye lande" he had left. 
The change was too sudden, the contrast too bitter. 
He felt that he had been transplanted from a con- 
genial soil and climate, to a land where winds were 
bleak and the earth was poor. He saw no hope for 
the future. To the youth capable of lively emotions, 
it seems inevitable that to day must be always. 

As a foil to these introspective shadows of the 
young poet himself, we have the following letter, 
written by his father to his uncle, Milton Hay, to 
whom the youth owed his college education. 

WARSAW, ILL., Sept. 6th, '58. 

. . . John is now at home, and I am somewhat 
undecided as to what course I will advise him to 
pursue. Augustus and his mother both protested 


against his becoming a schoolmaster in Warsaw 
at least ere entering upon the study of a profession. 
So I did not put in his claims before our board of 
education at the reelection of teachers which took 
place before John's return. I am not certain that 
a berth of that kind would be a pleasant one for him 
in Warsaw, and at all events the vacancies were so 
far filled before his return that I suppose his posi- 
tion now would have to be one so subordinate, per- 
haps, that it would neither suit his self-esteem nor 
his pecuniary wants. I have some reasons too for 
not wishing to place him in a law office in Warsaw, 
which it is unnecessary to name here now, and some 
further reasons for not wishing him to remain at all 
in Warsaw through the winter. 

In the meantime some of his friends urge him to 
turn his attention immediately to the law, while 
others, especially some valued ones at the East, ad- 
vise him to turn his attention at once and wholly to 
literature. I wish him, of course, to have some pro- 
fession upon which he can fall back, or rather rise 
upon, while he is rising, higher. Upon what terms 
can he enter your office and spend twelve months 
as a student? His board bill I would endeavor to 
render account for with the girls and sisters. He is 
restless and wishes to know his destiny, although he 
expects me to decide for him entirely. Augustus, 


with his native ambitious aspirations, would have 
him set out on a splendid career at once. That is, if 
his purse were long enough he would have [him] 
return as a resident graduate to Brown, read exten- 
sively, and write for Eastern periodicals until a time 
and opening offered for taking a high position some- 
where. But the purse is not full and will not be 
shortly at all events. I feel that I would do wrong not 
to encourage him to acquire a profession at once, and 
then do the best afterwards in that profession until 
a surer and better opening was apparent in some 
other direction. He thinks now that he cannot make 
a speaker, but I believe in the maxim of old Horace, 
"Poeta nascitur, orator fit." The Poet is born, but 
the orator is made by cultivation. I will wait your 
answer before I make up my final decision as to what 
course he will be advised to this winter. 

Hay passed through a long period of melancholy. 
How fully his family were aware of it, I have not 
learned. Outwardly, he meant to keep up a smiling 
front, so that perhaps they attributed any gloom 
they detected to his constitutional fits of depression. 
He had scarcely reached Warsaw before he referred 
to his life at Providence as a " happier state of exist- 
ence," and he looked forward to "the solitude of a 
Western winter" with foreboding. His letters, few 


in number, to Miss Perry and to Mrs. Whitman, 
are truly representative. To those sympathetic 
ladies he revealed what he hid from others. Poets 
themselves, they would understand a poet. 
On October 12, 1858, he writes to Miss Perry: 
"I shall never cease to congratulate myself upon 
the acquaintances I formed during the last few 
months of my stay in Providence. I found among 
them the objects for which my mind had always 
longed, true appreciation and sympathy. It is to 
their own goodness and generosity that I render all 
the kindness which I met with, and not to any 
qualities of my own; for it is the highest glory of 
genius to be quick in sympathy and prodigal of 
praise. But now when I am removed to a colder 
mental atmosphere, and the hopes and aspirations 
that gilded the gliding hours of my last year at col- 
lege are fading away, I still can console myself with a 
dream of the possibilities that once were mine, and 
soothe my soul with the shadowy Might-have-been. 
"In spite of the praise which you continually 
lavish upon the West, I must respectfully assert that 
I find only a dreary waste of heartless materialism, 
where great and heroic qualities may indeed bully 
their way up into the glare, but the flowers of exist- 
ence inevitably droop and wither. So in time I shall 
change. I shall turn from ' the rose and the rainbow 9 


to corner-lots and tax-titles, and a few years will find 
my eye not rolling in a fine frenzy, but steadily fixed 
on the pole-star of humanity, $! 

II But I am not yet so far degraded that I cannot 
love poetry and worship a poet. So let me implore 
you to ask a favor of me as often as you possibly 
can whatever it is, it is granted as soon as asked, 
if you will only acknowledge it as you did the last. 
If you will so far favor me, your letters will be a 
thread of gold woven into the dusky texture of a 
Western life. 

"With unalloyed pleasure I copy that delicious 
'La Papillon/ but are you not ashamed of your un- 
natural neglect? I would take the bright wanderer 
and claim it for my own if I dared. But it would look 
in my household like the last hope of Persia in the 
hovel of a cobbler of Bagdad." l 

The highly literary quality of this letter need not 
lead us to suspect the sincerity of Hay's feelings. 
Addressing a poetess, he naturally indulged in the 
Parnassian dialect. 

To Mrs. Whitman he wrote less exuberantly, but 
in the same vein: 

II 1 very much fear that if I remain in the West, I 
will entirely lose all the aspirations I formerly cher- 
ished, and see them fading with effortless apathy. 

1 Poet in Exile, pp. 17-19. 


Under the influence of the Boeotian atmosphere 
around me, my spirit will be 'subdued to what it 
works in,' and my residence in the East will remain 
in memory, an oasis in the desolate stretch of a ma- 
terial life. So before the evil days come on I cling 
more and more eagerly to the ties which connect me 
with Providence and civilization, and only hope that 
those whose genius I have long admired and whose 
characters I lately learned to love, may not utterly 
cast me off, but sometimes reach me a hand in the 
darkness to raise and console." 

Whatever tragedies of dashed hopes, thwarted 
ambitions, and mordant regrets were being enacted 
in John's distempered heart, he seemed fairly normal 
to those around him. From the next letter, which he 
wrote to his Uncle Milton, we infer that the young 
man was not only willing but eager to have the de- 
cision made which should put an end to his perplex- 
ity and self-searchings. 

WARSAW, ILLINOIS, Jan. 28th, 1859. 


Although I have very little to say, I write accord- 
ing to your request to let you know how I am get- 
ting along. I am not making the most rapid prog- 
ress in the law. I have, as you advised, read all of 
Hume consecutively, and, to speak with moderation, 


remember some of it. I would then immediately 
have made an attack upon Blackstone, had I not 
been prevented for a while by the general worth- 
lessness induced by the distemper that has troubled 
me more or less all the season. During the last few 
weeks I have been occupied in making preparations 
for a lecture before the "Literary Institute" in this 
town. I delivered it last Saturday evening to the 
best house I have ever seen in Warsaw. I think it 
was well received. People did not expect much from 
a boy, and so were more than satisfied. I have been 
asked to write again but shall not. It is too great 
an expenditure of time for no pay but nine days' 

It has had one effect, at least. It has convinced 
my very pious friends in this place that there is no 
sphere of life, for me, but the pulpit. I have been 
repeatedly told by lawyers here that I will never 
make my living by pettifogging. This is, of course, 
very encouraging, but I think, if my manifest des- 
tiny is to starve, I prefer to do it in a position where 
I will have only myself to blame for it. I would not 
do for a Methodist preacher, for I am a poor horse- 
man. I would not suit the Baptists, for I dislike 
water. I would fail as an Episcopalian, for I am no 
ladies 9 man. In spite of my remonstrance, however, 
I am button-holed in the street daily, and exhorted 


to enter into orders. Our minister here has loaded 
me with books which he innocently expects me to 
read as if my life was long enough. I find it the 
easiest way to agree with everything they say and 
to follow the example of the shrewd youth in the 
parable, who "said, 'I go,' and went not." 

I have a quiet room here to myself in which I can 
do as much as I could anywhere, alone. I suppose 
that I miss the personal superintendence of a precep- 
tor, but hope that I can make up for that loss here- 
after. If you think, at any time, that I can engage 
in anything profitable, either to myself or others, 
by coming to Springfield, I am ready to come. You 
spoka of a possibility of my succeeding, in case of a va- 
cancy, to a berth in the Auditor's office. That would 
be especially pleasant, as I suppose it would give 
me free access to the libraries in the State House. 
However, I am very easily contented, in whatever 
sphere I may be placed, and can always wait for the 
tide of circumstances without any inconvenience. 
Meanwhile, I will go on and read Blackstone at 
home. It is as pleasant as possible in Warsaw now. 
... I send you what our paper has to say about my 

Please remember me to all the family, especially 
to Grandfather. 



The newspaper clipping says that Mr. J. M. Hay's 
lecture, upon the "History of the Jesuits," was M a 
very able and eloquent effort, indeed, considering tha 
age of the speaker being not yet twenty years 
of age. . . . The church was crowded with listeners, 
many of whom were unable to get seats. . . . His 
voice was strong and clear, and his manner of de- 
livery excellent far surpassing that of any person 
we have before heard in our city. . . . Being raised 
in this city, of course many turned out to hear him, 
and not one have we heard who was not well pleased 
with his effort, and who does not accord to him all 
praise for historical research, and for the fine flights 
of eloquence of which he delivered himself at inter- 
vals throughout the lecture. The parents of this 
young man may justly feel proud of him, as do the 
citizens of our city, for his intelligence and manly 
bearing. He has the talents, and if he does not make 
his mark in the world as a bright and shining light, 
the fault is with himself." 

John Hay lived to read many eulogies on his 
writings, but perhaps he rarely felt a more genuine 
thrill than when he saw this first certificate to local 
fame. His letter to his uncle reveals his inner nature 
not less certainly than do his dithyrambic effusions 
to Miss Perry and Mrs. Whitman. Especially no- 
ticeable is the trait, which clung to him through life, 


of reluctance to push himself forward. This was due 

not to self-distrust, but to a shy fastidiousness. 

On December 15, 1858, Hay writes again to Mrs. 
Whitman: "... It may seem little to you to give a 
few words of generous praise to a moody boy or to 
send an exile in the West stfay glimpses of the pleas- 
ant world he has left forever." He then refers to 
her description of Niagara Falls, which reminded him 
"of thoughts that came dimly to me as I stood in 
the spray of that infinite torrent, and which seemed 
to me unutterable. And is not this the office of 
Genius? to set in clear and intelligible forms of 
beauty the vague and chaotic fancies that flit across 
the minds of the multitude? Is not the poet rather 
an Interpreter than a Creator? It is almost the same 
in effect. All the Greeks thought Olympus majes- 
tic till some shepherd-poet peopled it with gods. 
Those fancies which in the common mind are the 
wild and restless float of the waves, become embodied 
in the mind of the poet, in the perfect beauty of 
Aphrodite hanging forever in god-like loveliness 
above the tumultuous waste of the unresting seas." 
He excuses his silence of several months. " I have 
been very near the Valley of the Shadow. I felt the 
deprivation keenly in the fall, when the woods were 
blazing with the autumnal transfiguration, and the 
night slept tranced in the love of the harvest moon. 


I am now as well as ever." But he despairs of going 
East to live. "A few months of exile has worn the 
luster from my dreams and well-nigh quenched all 
liberal aspirations. I do not see how I could gain 
either honor or profit by writing, so I suppose the 
sooner I turn my attention to those practical studies 
which are to minister to the material wants in the 
West, the better it will be. ... It is dangerous for 
me to write the names of Eastern friends. It makes 
me discontented with my surroundings." l 

On January 2, 1859, Hay writes to Miss Perry, 
whom he ventures to address as "Nora," and con- 
gratulates her on her ideal position. "The world 
must be very fair as seen through the rosy atmos- 
phere of luxuriant youth and maidenhood." He, on 
the contrary, is called to the "barbarous West," yet 
he accepts "calmly, if not joyfully, the challenge 
of fate. From present indications my sojourn in this 
'wale of tears/ as the elder Weller pathetically 
styles it, will not be very protracted. I can stand it 
for a few years, I suppose. My father, with more am- 
bition and higher ideals than I, has dwelt and la- 
bored here a lifetime, and even this winter does not 
despair of creating an interest in things intellectual 
among the great unshorn of the prairies. I am not 
suited for a reformer. I do not like to meddle with 
1 From an unpublished letter in Brown University Library. 


Tioral ills. I love comfortable people. In the words 
of the poet Pigwiggen . . . ' I know I 'm a genus, 
'cause I hate work worse f n thunder, and would like 
to cut my throat only it hurts. . . .' There is, as 
yet, no room in the West for a genius. . . . Impu- 
dence and rascality are the talismans that open the 
gates of preferment. I am a Westerner. The influ- 
ences of civilization galvanized me for a time into a 
feverish life, but they will vanish before this death- 
in-life of solitude. I chose it, however, and my blood 
is on my own head." In conclusion, he encloses as 
an offering to Mrs. Whitman, two poems, " Parted" 
and "In the Mist." 1 

Throughout the autumn and winter, Hay experi- 
enced that disenchantment with the world which 
often overshadows alike the artistic and the devout 
in their first serious encounter with life. Common 
though the disillusion is, each of its victims supposes 
that he is the first to suffer under it. In Hay's case, 
it coincided with one of his periodic fits of melan- 
cholia. He desired to be a poet. His recent happy 
years in the East had not only developed his poetic 
talents, but they had also brought the confirmation 
of the persons whose judgment he trusted. If Nora 
Perry, if Mrs. Whitman encouraged him in his am- 
bition, how could he doubt? 

1 Poet in Exile, pp. 22-25. 


But "being a poet" is such a different matter 
from what the young aspirant imagines! Primarily, 
because the world, with its hard common sense, cares 
in the long run for only good poetry; and since it 
often requires a generation to sift the bad from the 
good, the poet may be dead before his work is ac- 
cepted. By what seems a sardonic decree, poets 
privileged beholders and describers of the ideal 
are locked up in human bodies, which must be fed, 
clothed, and housed: and the unrecognized bard, if 
he have only his poems to pay for the necessaries, 
will go hungry and naked. Instead of charging Fate 
with cruelty, however, we ought to perceive that 
this provision automatically saves the world from 
being overrun by third-rate poetasters: and we may 
even argue that Fate is on the side of the good poets. 
The Muse is as jealous a mistress now as ever she 
was; and when any of her young devotees dreams 
that he could worship her best if he had a sufficient 
bank account, he reveals that he is either unworthy 
or callow. 

Through those bitter months Hay ruminated on 
these things. Having set his heart on the bright- 
est, he learned that the cosmic laws would not be 
changed for his benefit. When a youth discovers 
that special favors are not accorded to the virtuous, 
he feels as Job, the just man, felt, that he has been 


betrayed by the moral scheme in which he confided, 
and he asks himself whether it is worth while to go 
on living in a world capable of such treachery. 
Hay drank his cup of wormwood to the bottom. 
How deeply he suffered appears in the following 

" I have wandered this winter in the valley of the 
shadow of death," Hay wrote Miss Perry in the 
spring. "All the universe, God, earth, and heaven 
have been to me but vague and gloomy phantasms. 
I have conversed with wild imaginings in the gloom 
of the forests. I have sat long hours by the sandy 
marge of my magnificent river, and felt the awful 
mystery of its unending flow, and heard an infi- 
nite lament breathed in the unquiet murmur of its 
whispering ripples. Never before have I been so 
much in society. Yet into every parlor my Daemon 
has pursued me. When the air has been fainting 
with poisoned perfumes, when every spirit thrilled 
to the delicate touch of airy harmonies, when per- 
fect forms moved in unison with perfect music, and 
mocked with their voluptuous grace the tortured as- 
pirations of poetry, I have felt, coming over my soul, 
colder than a northern wind, a conviction of the 
hideous unreality of all that moved and swayed and 
throbbed before me. It was not with the eye of a 
bigot, or the diseased perceptions of a penitent, that 


I looked upon such scenes; it was with what seemed 
to me 

"Thus far I wrote, and turned over the page and 
wrote no more for an hour. You have had enough 
of that kind of agonized confession, have n't you? 
An open human heart is not a pleasant thing. I only 
wanted to tell you why I had not written. It would 
have been easier to say it was simply impossible." l 

Again we note the premeditated, literary quality 
of his personal confession, and we wonder whether 
the suffering could be genuine which he described in 
such nicely balanced, rhetorical sentences. But we 
must remember that he was consciously trying to 
write up to what he assumed to be Nora Perry's 
ethereal plane; that he had been feeding on the works 
of the Romanticists then in fashion; and that, as is 
the way with young authors absorbed in their own 
emotions, he dramatized himself. 

Poet he wished to be, and if his wit had had the 
compulsion of genius, neither poverty, nor hardships, 
nor the world's neglect would have restrained him. 
He would have managed somehow to sing in War- 
saw, Illinois, as validly as Robert Burns did in Moss- 
giel, Scotland. He gave up his career reluctantly, 
with poignant regret, but without any after effects of 
cynicism. First love may be sweetest, but it is not 

1 Poet in Exik, pp. 41-42: Springfield, Illinois, May 15, 1859- 


the deepest; and although Hay could not forsake all 
else to follow the Muse, still he never lost his enthu- 
siasm for her; and up to the end of his life, when any 
emotion stirred him greatly, he sought a vent for it 
in verse. 

Hay's family recognized his literary achievement 
at Brown, and were proud of it, and they allowed 
him ample time to choose his life-work. When he 
had convinced himself that his poet dream could not 
be realized, and had canvassed and discarded various 
suggestions, including the ministry, he finally 
settled upon the law. "They would spoil a first- 
class preacher to make a third-class lawyer of me," 
he is reported to have said. His father would have 
been glad to have one son follow his own profession: 
but John and his brothers had seen too much of the 
laboriousness of the life of a country doctor to care 
to undertake it. The law, on the other hand, held 
out special inducements: for John was to enter the 
office at Springfield of his Uncle Milton, who stood 
among the leaders of the Illinois Bar. Might not the 
law be regarded almost as a literary profession? 
Had not the ranks of men of letters been recruited 
from the lawyers? At that very moment did not 
James Russell Lowell's case prove that, given the 
right endowment, one might mount from apprentice- 
ship in the law to the sphere of poetry and belles- 


lettres? A successful lawyer might earn a sufficient 
fortune to retire from practice and devote himself 
to literature while he was still young enough to win 
fame therein: just as middle-aged men sometimes 
marry the sweethearts of their youth with the 
happiest results. 

Disappointed, but not cast down, John Hay ac- 
cordingly began his legal training with his Uncle 
Milton in the spring of 1859. Before we describe his 
new life, however, we will conclude his self-revela- 
tions to Miss Perry. 

He wrote the glowing letter just quoted, after he 
had settled in Springfield. " I am now at work," he 
added. " In work I always find rest. A strange para- 
dox but true. If my health returns, I do not ques- 
tion but that I shall work out of these shadows. If 
not, there is a cool rest under the violets, and eter- 
nity is long enough to make right the errors and de- 
ficiencies of time/' l 

Here is the familiar note which youth utters when 
bereavement or self-abnegation or contrition sweeps 
over it. " I can bear but I am sure to die soon," 
says the young self-pitier, unaware that vanity and 
not fortitude is speaking, and that grief has its 
luxury which must be checked. In Hay's case, there 
seems no doubt that he suffered from poor health 
1 Poet in Exile, pp. 4^43- 


that winter; possibly he thought that he had a disease 
which would soon carry him off: but his yearning for 
rest under the violets is so common among youths 
who take Fate's rebuffs sentimentally that we need 
not be alarmed by it. Nevertheless, we must not be- 
little the burden of misery which a nature like his 
actually feels under such conditions. 

Nearly a year later, although he was then out- 
wardly wrapped up in his new career at Springfield, 
he replied regretfully to a letter from Miss Perry: 

' ' I hope you may never be placed in a situation where 
you will be able to sympathize with my present habi- 
tudes of mind, or appreciate the feelings of grateful 
delight occasioned by a kindness like your last. 

11 When, in the midst of my laborious and intensely 
practical studies, the current of my thoughts is 
changed by a reminder of a state of existence so 
much higher than mine, I feel for a moment as a 
pilgrim might have felt, in the days when angels 
walked with men, who, lying weary and exhausted 
with his toilsome journey, has heard in the desert 
silence faint hints of celestial melody, and seen the 
desolate sands empurpled and glorified with a fleet- 
ing flash of spiritual wings. 

"The splendor fades, but the ripples of memory 
still stir the stagnant waters of the soul, and life is 
less dreary that the vision has come and gone. 


" It is cowardly in me to cling so persistently to a 
life which is past. It is my duty, and in truth it is 
my ultimate intention to qualify myself for a West- 
ern lawyer, et pr&terea nihil, 'only that and nothing 
more/ Along the path of my future life, short though 
it be, my vision runs unchecked. No devious ways. 
No glimpses of sudden splendor striking athwart. 
No mysteries. No deep shadows, save those in my 
own soul, for I expect prosperity, speaking after the 
manner of men. No intense lights but at the end. 
So my life lies. A straight path on both sides 
quiet labor, at the end, Death and Rest. 

"Yet though I know all this, though I feel that 
Illinois and Rhode Island are entirely antipathetic, 
though I am aware that thy people are not my peo- 
ple, nor thy God my God, I cannot shut my friends 
out of my memory or annihilate the pleasant past. 
I cannot help being delighted to receive a letter 
from you, and to know that the Doctor [Helme] 
sometimes remembers me. When I read ' After the 
Ball,' and when, going into the State House, the 
Secretary of State said to me, l Hay, have you read 
the last Atlantic? there is the prettiest poem there 
this month it has ever published!' I could not help 
feeling a personal pride that I had heard it read, 
alive with the poet's voice and warm from the poet's 


"What more can I say than to confess that my 
friends are necessary to me, to ask you to give my 
love to the Doctor, and to write to me as soon as you 
will. How glad I am that the world is learning to 
love Mrs. Whitman as much as those who have sat 
at the feet of the revered Priestess." l 

In this letter, even more than in the earlier, we per- 
ceive that Hay treats himself as he might any one 
else, whose plight he tries to describe in the finest 
literary style. He is not insincere; he is simply the 
artist, using his own emotions as stuff for his story. 
When this tendency becomes a habit, spontaneity 
gives way to artificiality: as in the case of Robert 
Louis Stevenson, who would spit blood in his hand- 
kerchief, and a few minutes later seize his pen and 
write in a private letter intended for the world to 
admire an account of the affair, so vivid, so cor- 
rect, so "faultily faultless," that teachers of English 
might hold it up as a model to illiterate Freshmen. 

Hay, however, was still far from this pitch of 
artistic self-intoxication, and, thanks to happy in- 
fluences, which came to him in the disguise of dis- 
appointment, he never reached it. He believed that 
what he wrote to Miss Perry depicted, however 
faintly, the anguish of his soul. He wished also to 
free himself from the suspicion of having cravenly 

1 Poet in Exile, pp. 44-46: Springfield, Illinois, March 4, 1860. 


deserted the ideal life. He still loved the Muse best, 
and only under the duress of necessity was he embark- 
ing on the worldly profession of the law. But though 
he might prosper, and he expected "prosperity, 
speaking after the manner of men," his heart would 
remain true to the ideal. 

Just as a new life, of amazing inspiration, was open- 
ing for him, he thus pledged his devotion to the old: 
and he never wavered in it. Long afterward, when 
he appeared to strangers an accomplished man of the 
world, or when he staggered under the burdens of 
statesmanship, he heard again, and thrilled to hear, 
the poetic voices which captivated his youth. So, at 
certain seasons, dwellers on the Breton coast hear 
the pealing of the bells of the city which the waves 
submerged long, long ago. 




N March or April, 1859, John Hay went to Spring- 
field, to read law with his uncle, who was head of 
one of the oldest and most successful firms in the 
West. Fifteen years before, when Stephen T. Logan 
directed it, Abraham Lincoln had been a partner, 
and, besides him, two of his associates became Con- 
gressmen. Under Milton Hay, the office continued 
to be a nursery "for cradling public men": 1 for 
law and politics interlocked so closely that they often 
seemed merely two aspects of the same profession. 
It required far less acumen than young John Hay 
possessed to discern that the road to fortune lay 
through that office. The material expansion of Illi- 
nois its railroads, its industries, its rapidly grow- 
ing cities and towns, with the consequent fixing of 
titles and contracts and the adjusting of claims 
made the lawyer the one indispensable member of 
the community. Men might manage to shift with- 
out the doctor, because Nature herself sometimes 

1 N. & H. f I, 214, n. i. "John M. Palmer and Shelby M. Cullom 
left it to become Governors of the State, and the latter to be a Con- 
gressman and Senator." 


worked a cure; and at a pinch they could do even 
without the minister, taking their chances as to the 
hereafter; but they needed the lawyer at every turn, 
and it was only a step from applying the laws to 
framing them. So Hay might hope, with reasonable 
diligence, either to prosper at the bar, or, if he pre- 
ferred, to enter public life, which offered fame as 
well as fortune. 

Far more important was it to the young appren- 
tice, however, that both his position and his occu- 
pation threw him into relations, sometimes very 
friendly, with the leading men of Illinois. Such a 
privilege could come only in a community which, al- 
though small numerically, held the keys to vast enter- 
prises. The material development of Illinois was 
at that period of incalculable significance. But it in- 
volved far more than the building up of the State 
itself; for the growth of the new Northwest and the 
exploitation of transcontinental projects were af- 
fected, directly or indirectly, by the attitude of Illi- 
nois, and this, in turn, depended upon the lawmakers 
at Springfield. And just at this time political con- 
cerns had begun to overshadow material. The crisis 
which had been preparing since the formation of the 
American Union could no longer be avoided, either 
by compromise, or threat, or ignoble subservience. 
In this crisis Fate summoned Illinois to play a 


pivotal part; and it happened that the providential 
man, not only for Illinois, but for the American 
Union, and for the maintenance of Anglo-Saxon 
civilization in the United States, occupied a shabby 
law office alongside of Milton Hay's, and practiced 
his profession during those intervals when politics 
did not utterly engross him. 

This was Abraham Lincoln, now in his fiftieth 
year, who only recently, by his joint debates with 
Judge Stephen A. Douglas, had sent his reputation 
beyond the borders of the State. Even his neighbors 
and acquaintances, of whom he counted hundreds in 
central and northern Illinois, did not fully under- 
stand the genius which inspired Lincoln in that 
campaign. His speeches, whether in attack or rebut- 
tal, stand alone in modern oratory: we must go 
back to the Socratic dialogues to find their parallels. 
He spoke so simply, he met his enemy's points so 
honestly and demolished them so easily, that his 
hearers, though entirely convinced, discovered no- 
thing unusual in his performance. Eloquence still 
meant to them the Olympian dignity and the deep, 
sonorous voice of Daniel Webster, and the tidal 
ebb and flow of his periods, and the polish of his 
diction; or it meant the forceful declamation of Cal- 
houn, or Wendell Phillips's invectives gleaming like 
bayonets in the sun. 


Lincoln differed from all these. He had neither 
Webster's imperial presence, nor the rich, supple 
voice, nor the polished diction and gestures of the 
model orator. He breathed no echo of Burke or 
Chatham, no reminder of Cicero or Demosthenes. 
He was plain Abraham Lincoln, addressing crowds 
in the prairie towns as naturally as he would have 
talked to them one by one on his front porch. He 
had a power rarer than intellectual keenness or the 
zealot's fervor, or than intoxicating eloquence the 
power to penetrate to fundamental principles. He 
saw the simple bases on which slavery and abolition, 
union and secession, finally rested; and in every 
debate he quickly stripped away confusing details 
and laid bare the essentials, which he presented so 
simply that they had the settled quality of scientific 
formulas. But he clothed his arguments in some 
parable or picturesque figure which everybody under- 
stood, and could not forget; and he spoke so sincerely 
that it was evident that he set truth above a political 
victory. Where Douglas evaded or straddled, Lin- 
coln stood on principle; he resorted to no devices and 
wasted no time on quibbles, but squarely dislodged 
Douglas from one perch after another. Lincoln's 
good-nature, his humor, his wit, and large-hearted 
charity were as conspicuous as his trenchant logic 
indeed, they sometimes blinded his hearers to the 


extraordinary skill with which he upheld his cause. 
We see now that while he was ostensibly working 
for the success of the Republican Party in the next 
election and his own choice as senator, he was really 
proclaiming the impossibility that the nation should 
continue half-bond, half -free, and he was restating 
the fundamental principles without which civiliza- 
tion sinks into barbarism. 

In November, 1858, the Republicans outvoted the 
Douglas Democrats: when the legislature met, how- 
ever, Douglas beat Lincoln for the senatorship by 
eight votes; and while he went in triumph to the 
United States Senate, Lincoln returned to his law 
office in Springfield. But the triumph was brief. 
The Little Giant's prestige withered under the effect 
of Lincoln's remorseless criticism, and although he 
lived barely three years, at his death he had already 
outworn his influence. History will not forget him, 
however much he might pray to be forgotten; be- 
cause he is as indissolubly bound up with Lincoln's 
immortality as Brutus is with Caesar's. He remains 
as a warning to men of good intentions, much van- 
ity, and no solid morality, who, in a national crisis, 
when the differences between conflicting principles 
stand out as uncompromisingly as life and death, 
insist that it is only a matter of shading; that by 
calling "black ""white" and "white" "black" you 


can make them so; that, after all, there are no immu- 
table things, but only adjectives, which can be trans- 
posed or varied, like a girl's ribbons, to suit your 

Abraham Lincoln believed that there are certain 
eternal distinctions between right and wrong, and he 
shattered Douglas's makeshifts as the Matterhorn 
shatters the troops of clouds which drive against it 
from one direction to another. And even though 
they should hide the mighty peak for a day, they 
never can be more than clouds, unsubstantial and 
evanescent, whereas the Matterhorn is granite and 

"I am glad I made the late race," Lincoln wrote 
to a friend. " It gave me a hearing on the great and 
durable questions of the age, which I could have 
had in no other way; and though I sink out of view, 
and shall be forgotten, I believe I have made some 
marks for the cause of civil liberty long after I am 
gone." 1 

To another correspondent he replied: "The fight 
must go on. The cause of civil liberty must not 
be surrendered at the end of one or even one hun- 
dred defeats. Douglas had the ingenuity to be sup- 
ported in the late contest, both as the means to 
break down and to uphold the slave interest. No 
1 Lincoln to Henry, November 19, 1858. 


ingenuity can keep these antagonistic elements in 
harmony long. Another explosion will soon come." x 

When John Hay 2 began his career in his Uncle 
Milton's office, he found this strange figure next 
door, and it could not have been long before he, like 
every one else, was listening to Lincoln's stories and 
was feeling the indefinable fascination of his homely 
wit and moral fervor. Not that Hay at twenty- 
one suspected the heroic possibilities in the sad- 
eyed, ungainly pioneer, who uttered parables in 
language that might have been taken from the New 
Testament, or indulged in coarse jokes, or drew 
vivid word-portraits of the Western notables, or 
stated political issues with masterly clearness. Young 
Hay, still regretting his parting from the Muses, 
and still surreptitiously seeking their inspiration, 
could not be expected to recognize in Lincoln their 

But even casual association with " Honest Abe," 
as his fellow citizens called him, could not fail to af- 
fect the impressionable youth. By nature sanguine 
and social, Hay was not of those who can nurse a life- 
long sorrow. His heart required time in order to be 
reconciled to the surrender of its poetic dreams, but 
his head acquiesced, and, acquiescing, took an eager 

1 Lincoln to Asbury, November 19, 1858. Both in N. & H., II, 
* On leaving Brown, Hay dropped his middle name, "Milton." 


interest in the men with whom he was thrown; and 
his intellectual curiosity kindled by degrees into pas- 
sionate zeal. 

Indeed, only a creature as emotionless as pumice- 
stone could remain torpid in that crisis, when the 
conflict foreseen, dreaded, dodged, smothered, for 
as far back as men could remember was bursting 
into flame. To be neutral then was to be an out- 
cast. Every one must choose his side, for or against 
slavery and secession. The question was compli- 
cated, however, because a man who detested slav- 
ery might honestly believe that the preservation of 
the Union, even with slavery allowed to continue in 
the Southern States, was the chief concern. To de- 
stroy the Union would not free the slaves, but would 
set up two hostile republics instead of one which, 
although then torn by sectional differences, seemed 
intended by destiny to remain one. 

Brought up in a family which never swerved in 
its devotion to freedom, John Hay absorbed his po- 
litical opinions, as a boy does, from listening to his 
elders. Owing to the loss of his early correspondence, 
we have no means of tracing his opinions on na- 
tional affairs] but this can hardly matter, because 
he did not begin to think for himself until after he 
returned to Springfield. He makes only one refer- 
ence to politics in the letters which I have seen. 


Writing to his mother from Providence on February 
6, 1856, he says: ''Banks is Speaker. There is very 
little enthusiasm here. But they rejoice in a quiet 
Yankee sort of way. How 'all-overish' I felt one 
evening when Mrs. Hunt was flaying the Abolition- 
ists alive. Southern Chivalry is in the ashes at pres- 
ent. 'Sic semper Tyrannis* says the North." l 

Three years later, when Hay was studying law, 
the recently formed Republican Party had become 
powerful as the successor of the old Whigs and, still 
more, as the party of the zealous young men in the 
North, who were resolved to prevent further en- 
croachments by the Southern slaveocracy. It was 
at that happy stage in the development of an insti- 
tution when its ideals, unsullied as yet by selfish 
desires, justified the enthusiasm of its supporters. 
Its principles had the compulsion of religion; and 
rightly so, because they aimed at carrying out in 
the sphere of public life the behests of private con- 

Despite his avowal that he was not suited for a 
reformer, and that he did not like to meddle with 
moral ills, John Hay enrolled himself as a Republi- 
can, and we cannot doubt that he soon felt the moral 

1 Unedited letter. On February 2, 1856, N. P. Banks, of Mas- 
sachusetts, the Republican candidate, was elected Speaker of the 
House of Representatives by 103 votes to 100 for Aiken, of South 


stimulus of working with a party dedicated to human 
liberty. His sense of humor, always alert, kept him 
from being blind to the crudities of political action; 
but his zeal was stronger still. 

Little record has come to hand of his apprentice- 
ship in law. His uncle's office, which transacted all 
sorts of legal business, offered every opportunity for 
a thorough and well-rounded training. Hay was 
spasmodically diligent, and having made up his 
mind to be a lawyer, he exerted himself, as was his 
fashion, to succeed. In due season February 4, 
1 86 1 he was admitted to the bar. 

On the surface, however, Hay appeared to his as- 
sociates at this time as a young man of varied rather 
than serious interests. Quick at repartee and puns, 
lovable in disposition, he was a favorite at every 
social gathering. The girls delighted in him, and he 
in them; but, as one of the survivors writes me, "he 
found safety in numbers." They took French les- 
sons together; they went to sociables and church 
fairs; they attended sermons and lectures and polit- 
ical rallies. Hay shone not only as the wittiest of the 
younger set, but as the winner of unusual distinc- 
tion in an Eastern college, and as a reader and poet. 
His opinions on books made the rounds. His verses, 
sparkling or sentimental, were treasured by their 
recipients, and quoted. Even his sedate friend John 


Nicolay, who had settled in Springfield to edit a 
newspaper, was enlivened by Hay's example. 

Two specimens of Hay's fun, though but trifles, 
may be cited. The first is a note, sent to three sis- 
ters "with a huge bunch of wild, blue phlox, 1860 " : 
"I am lamentably ignorant as to whether Gold- 
smith is one of your favorite poets, but if he is, you 
have doubtless admired his beautiful and merciful 

"'No Phlox that range the valley free 

To slaughter I condemn; 
Taught by the power that pities me, 
I learn to pity them.'" 

Another is from an invitation from Hay to one 
of these sisters to go with him to hear Lincoln 
speak in Cook's Hall. Like several of his notes, it 
is written in a French which gives it a more comical 

"Je suis bien heureux que je puis annoncer a 
vous que M. Lincoln, l'honnte vieux Abe, va faire 
un discours a la salle du Cuisinier demain au soir. 
Voulez vous rappeler votre promesse et m'accom- 
pagner? J'esp^re d'entendre beaucoup de les choses 
bonnes, qui reposent comme Lazare apr&s son mort, 
en 'Abraham's Bosom."' l 

Whatever regrets Hay buried in his heart, he 
faced the world so buoyantly that we may assume 

1 Printed as written. 


that the wounds of disappointment were healing 
sooner than he imagined. 

In the retrospect, even Warsaw gleamed with 
charms for him. On November 29, 1861, he wrote to 
a dear young friend there: 

"Warsaw dull? It shines before my eyes like a 
social paradise compared with this miserable sprawl- 
ing village [Washington] which imagines itself a 
city because it is wicked, as a boy thinks he is a man 
when he smokes and swears. I wish I could by wish- 
ing find myself in Warsaw. 

11 1 am cross because I am away from Warsaw. I 
believe honestly (if it is possible for me to believe 
anything honestly) that I shall never enjoy myself 
more thoroughly than I did that short little winter 
I spent at home. It was so quiet and so still, so 
free from anything that could disturb or bore me, 
that it seems in the busy days I am wearing out 
now like a queer little dream of contentment and 
peace, when I so obstinately and persistently left 
the dear old town that rainy, tearful, doleful Mon- 
day afternoon. I never before was so anxious to see 
Warsaw, or so reluctant to leave it. It is a good 
thing to go home. I seem to take a new lease on life; 
to renew a fast-fleeting youth on the breezy hills of 
my home. I feel like doing a marvelous amount of 
work when I return, and the dull routine of every- 


day labor is charmingly relieved by vanishing visions 
of green hills, grand rivers, and willowy islands that 
float between me and my paper." l 

By the spring of 1860 he took a keen interest in 
the political campaign. The Republican State Con- 
vention, which met at Decatur on May 9 and 10, 
nominated Lincoln as Illinois' candidate for Presi- 
dent. Then occurred that picturesque scene which 
illustrates how mankind is often more impressed by 
symbols than by what the symbols stand for. Be- 
fore the vote was taken, word came from outside that 
an old Democrat had something he wished to give 
the convention. Presently, in came Lincoln's cousin, 
John Hanks, bearing two rails, and a banner with the 
inscription: "Abraham Lincoln, the rail candidate 
for President in 1860. Two rails from a lot of 3000 
made in 1830 by Thomas Hanks and Abe Lincoln 
whose father was the first pioneer of Macon 
County." Amid a rush of enthusiasm the conven- 
tion voted for the " Rail-splitter," and this nomina- 
tion the Republican National Convention confirmed 
at Chicago a week later, when, on the third ballot, 
Lincoln distanced Seward, New York's favorite 
son, and was declared the unanimous choice of the 
party (May 17, 1860). 

From that moment, Springfield, Illinois, loomed 

1 Century, LXI, 453. 


up in national importance. During the summer 
and autumn it seethed with politics. Every Repub- 
lican politician, every friend of Lincoln, and even 
lukewarm partisans who, notwithstanding, desired 
to see him elected for the honor of the city and the 
State, joined in the campaign. The young men threw 
themselves into the cause with the ardor of Crusa- 
ders. Among them was Hay, who worked to enroll 
supporters and spoke at meetings as enthusiastically 
as if he had not deplored, in his letters to the poet- 
esses at Providence, the hopeless materialism of the 
unshorn men of the prairies. He began to be elec- 
trified by the ideals which underlay the Republican 
movement. Nicolay served Lincoln as secretary in 
the campaign, and Hay helped Nicolay. 

After his election as President, on November 6, 
Lincoln appointed Nicolay as his private secretary. 
His duties increased to such proportions that, al- 
though he was one of the most industrious of men, 
they soon exceeded his capacity, and he suggested 
that Hay be employed as assistant secretary. "We 
can't take all Illinois with us down to Washington," 
the President-elect said, good-humoredly; and then 
after a pause, as if relenting, he added: "Well, let 
Hay come." 

Thus Fortune opened her door to the young man 
of twenty-two. Instead of condemning him to per- 


petual banishment in the "West," she led him to the 
East, to Washington, to the White House, to be the 
confidential helper of "the most sympathetic among 
all Americans, living or dead/' at the most exciting 
national crisis since the American Union was founded. 
Hay knew that this experience could not fail to be 
a stepping-stone to whatever he might do later. 
President Lincoln, we may believe, saw more in him 
than a clerical assistant clerks could be had any- 
where: he saw the fresh, easy-mannered, sunny com- 
panion, who might relieve the tedium of routine life; 
the youth who, apparently understanding by intui- 
tion the ways of the world, might on occasion smooth 
over social roughnesses which the President himself 
would hardly have noticed. Nicolay, too, prized the 
frank nature and quick intelligence of the friend of his 
boyhood. It meant much for him to have an assist- 
ant who was at once congenial and willing and versa- 

So John Hay said good-bye to his uncle's law office, 
and to the young women who cherished his verses, 
and to his parents and friends at Warsaw; and on 
February n, 1861, he started with Lincoln and the 
presidential party on their roundabout journey to 
Washington. The President's last words to his 
neighbors, before the train steamed out of Spring- 
field, were full of sadness and affection, as became 


one who realized the weight of the burden he was go- 
ing away to take up, and the quick alternations of 
life and death. What young Hay thought at that 
moment we are not told; but it would be strange if 
he were not thrilled at the prospect of plunging 
into a new world, of unknown and alluring pos- 
sibilities. Like many another poet in embryo, he was 
soon to feel the exhilaration which comes from doing 
after dreaming. 



ABRAHAM LINCOLN read his Inaugural 
Address at the Capitol on March 4, 1861. 
Since Washington's Farewell, no presidential utter- 
ance had moved the country so deeply as that, and of 
Lincoln's many stirring passages in it none equaled 
his concluding lines: " I am loth to close. We are not 
enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. 
Though passion may have strained, it must not 
break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of 
memory, stretching from every battlefield, and pa- 
triot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, 
all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of 
the Union, when again touched, as they surely will 
be, by the better angels of our nature." l When John 
Hay's friends and classmates read that paragraph, 
they believed that he wrote it so high was their 
estimate of his poetic talents and so little as yet did 
they discern the literary genius of Lincoln. 

From that day Nicolay and Hay lived in the White 
House, within a moment's call of the President. The 

1 The passage was written by Lincoln, who transmuted Seward's 
suggestion into pure gold. N. & H. f m, 336, 341 n. 


small chambers assigned to them were shabby and 
scantily furnished; but the secretaries were young 
and used to roughing it, and they were soon too busy 
to heed passing discomforts. Nicolay had charge of 
the more official correspondence. Hay, who often took 
his share of this burden, wrote letters, saw callers, 
went on errands to the Departments, kept in touch 
with personages political, military, and social, and, 
in case of need, escorted Mrs. Lincoln when she drove 
out, or amused the Lincoln boys on a rainy day. 
He made himself very quickly a member of the fam- 
ily; and Lincoln, the most unconventional of men, 
welcomed his young, versatile, and trustworthy as- 
sistant, whose willingness and common sense could 
always be depended upon. 

During the first weeks of the Administration, 
suspense prevailed in the White House and through- 
out the Government. Men realized that the rela- 
tions with the Southern States were growing worse, 
not better, but they still regarded with incredulity 
the likelihood of a civil war. Lincoln had pledged 
himself not to be the aggressor: many anxious 
Northerners still hoped that even fanatical Seces- 
sionists would stop short before striking the irrevoc- 
able blow. News of the firing on Fort Sumter in 
Charleston Harbor, on April 12, and of its evacua- 
tion by the Union commander on April 14, dispelled 


the last doubt. On April 15 President Lincoln is- 
sued his call for 75,000 volunteers. 

Three days later Hay records in his Diary: "The 
White House is turned into barracks. Jim Lane l 
marshaled his Kansas warriors to-day at Willard's 
and placed them at the disposal of Major Hunter, 
who turned them to-night into the East Room. It 
is a splendid company worthy such an armory. 
Besides the Western Jayhawkers it comprises some 
of the best material in the East. Senator Pomeroy 
and old Anthony Bleecker stood shoulder to shoulder 
in the ranks. Jim Lane walked proudly up and 
down the ranks with a new sword that the Major 
had given him. The Major has made me his aid, 
and I labored under some uncertainty, as to whether 
I should speak to privates or not. 

"The President to-day received this dispatch, 'We 
entreat you to take immediate measures to protect 
American Commerce in the Southern waters and 
we respectfully suggest the charter or purchase of 
steamers of which a number can be fitted from here 
without delay.' Signed by Grinnell Minturn and 
many others of the leading business men of the 
place. The President immediately sent for the Cabi- 
net. They came together and Seward * answered the 

1 James H. Lane, of Kansas, border-fighter, United States Sena- 
tor, and brigadier-general of volunteers. 
William H. Seward, Secretary of State. 


dispatch in these words: 'Dispatch to the President 
received and letter under consideration. W. H. 

"All day the notes of preparation have been heard 
at the public buildings and the armories. Every- 
body seems to be expecting a son or a brother or 
'young man 1 in the coming regiments. 

"To-night, Edward brought me a card from Mrs. 
Ann Stephens expressing a wish to see the President 
on matters concerning his personal safety. As the 
Ancient l was in bed I volunteered to receive the har- 
rowing communication. Edward took me to a little 
room adjoining the Hall and I waited. Mrs. Stephens 
who is neither young nor yet fair to any miraculous 
extent, came in leading a lady who was a little of 
both whom she introduced to me as Mrs. Colonel 
Lander. 2 I was delighted at this chance interview 
with the Medea, the Julia, the Mona Lisa of my 
stage-struck days. After many hesitating and bash- 
ful trials, Mrs. Lander told the impulse that brought 
her. Some young Virginian long-haired, swagger- 
ing, chivalrous, of course, and indiscreet friend had 
come into town in great anxiety for a new saddle, 
and meeting her, had said that he and half a dozen 
others, including a daredevil guerrilla from Rich- 

1 One of the pet names which Hay and Nicolay gave the President. 
1 A popular actress of that generation. 


mond, named F., would do a thing within forty-eight 
hours that would ring through the world. Connect- 
ing this central fact with a multiplicity of attendant 
details, she concluded that the President was either 
to be assassinated or captured. She ended by re- 
newing her protestations of earnest solicitude min- 
gled with fears of the impropriety of the step. Lander 
has made her very womanly since he married her. 
Imagine Jean M. Davenport a blushing, hesitating 

"They went away, and I went to the bedside of 
the Chief couchi. I told him the yarn. He quietly 

"Going to my room, I met the Captain. He was 
a little boozy and very eloquent. He dilated on the 
troubles of the time and bewailed the existence of a 
garrison in the White House 'to give eclat to Jim 

"Hill Lamon came in about midnight saying 
that Cash. Clay was drilling a splendid company at 
Willard's Hall and that the town was in a general 
tempest of enthusiastic excitement; which not being 
very new, I went to sleep." 

If John Hay had been able to continue during the 
succeeding four years to write day by day the White 
House Chronicle as amply as this first day of actual 
war preparations, he would have left not only the 


most complete, but the most varied and picturesque 
of records. 

April 19 also was filled with business and alarms. 

"Early this morning" (Hay writes), " I consulted 
with Major Hunter as to measures proper to be 
taken in the matter of guarding the House. He told 
me that he would fulfill any demand I should make. 
The forenoon brought us news of the destruction of 
government property at Harper's Ferry. It de- 
lighted the Major, regarding it as a deadly blow at 
the prosperity of the recusant Virginia. 

" I called to see Joe Jefferson and found him more 
of a gentleman than I had expected. A very intel- 
lectual face, thin and eager, with large, intense blue 
eyes, the lines firm, and the hair darker than I had 
thought. I then went to see Mrs. Lander and made 
her tell the story all over again 'just by way of a 
slant/ Miss Lander the sculptor was there. 

11 Coming up, I found the streets full of the bruit 
of the Baltimore mob and at the White House was 
a nervous gentleman who insisted on seeing the 
President to say that a mortar battery had been 
planted on the Virginia heights commanding the 
town. He separated himself from the information 
and instantly retired. I had to do some very dexter- 
ous lying to calm the awakened fears of Mrs. Lin- 
coln in regard to the assassination suspicion. 


"After tea came Partridge and Petterbridge from 
Baltimore. They came to announce that they had 
taken possession of the Pikesville Arsenal in the 
name of the Government to represent the feeling 
of the Baltimore conservatives in regard to the pre- 
sent imbroglio there and to assure the President 
of the entire fidelity of the Governor and the State 
authorities. The President showed them Hicks l and 
Brown's 2 dispatch, which [read]: 'Send no troops 
here. The authorities here are loyal to the Consti- 
tution. Our police force and local militia will be suf- 
ficient/ Meaning, as they all seemed to think, that 
they wanted no Washington troops to preserve order, 
but, as Seward insists, that no more troops must be 
sent through the city. Scott 8 seemed to agree with 
Seward, and his answer to a dispatch of inquiry was: 
'Governor Hicks has no authority to prevent troops 
from passing through Baltimore/ Seward inter- 
polated: 'No right/ Partridge and Petterbridge 
seemed both loyal and hopeful. They spoke of the 
danger of the North being roused to fury by the 
bloodshed of to-day, and pouring in an avalanche 
over the border. The President most solemnly as- 
sured them that there was no danger. 'Our people 
are easily influenced by reason ' (said he) . ' They have 

1 Thomas H. Hicks, Governor of Maryland. 

* George W. Brown, Mayor of Baltimore. 

* General Winfield Scott, commanding the United States Army. 


determined to prosecute this matter with energy, but 
with the most temperate spirit. You are entirely 
safe from invasion/ 

"Wood came up to say that young Henry saw a 
steamer landing troops off Fort Washington. I told 
the President. Seward immediately drove to Scott's. 

"Miss Dix called to-day, to offer services in the 
Hospital branch. She makes the most munificent 
and generous offers." 

Events followed one another so rapidly that the 
White House had no repose, night or day. Alarmists, 
cranks, wiseacres beset the hall and corridors and 
strove to reach the President's office. The Potomac, 
according to rumors, was infested by suspicious- 
looking craft. Every one asked whether Washington 
could be held, in case the Secessionists should make 
a sudden dash upon it. Anxiety lest the mob should 
capture the White House itself and carry off the 
President, kept cropping up. Hay had under his 
special care the protection of both Mr. Lincoln and 
the Executive Mansion. "About midnight," he 
says, "we made a tour of the house. Hunter and the 
Italian exile, Vivaldi, were quietly sleeping on the 
floor of the East Room, and a young and careless 
guard loafed around the furnace fires in the base- 
ment. Good-looking and energetic young fellows, 
too good to be food for gunpowder, if anything is." 


The next day he "went up to see the Massachu- 
setts troops quartered in the Capitol. The scene was 
very novel. The contrast was very painful between 
the gray-haired dignity that filled the Senate Cham- 
ber when I saw it last, and the present throng of 
bright-looking Yankee boys, the most of them bear- 
ing the signs of New England rusticity in voice and 
manner, scattered over the desks, chairs, and gal- 
leries, some loafing, many writing letters slowly and 
with plough-hardened hands, or with rapid-glancing 
clerkly fingers, while Grow 1 stood patiently by the 
desk and franked for everybody." 

The mobbing of the Sixth Massachusetts Regi- 
ment on its passage through Baltimore, on April 19, 
and the break in that city of communications be- 
tween Washington and the loyal North, caused 
feverish agitation for several days. Unless the Union 
troops could come through, the State of Maryland 
might not only fall into the control of the Secession- 
ists, but might send an invading force against the 
Capital. If this were joined there by an attacking 
column from Virginia, how could the town be saved? 
Only when the Northern volunteers began to arrive 
by roundabout routes did the alarm subside. 

Through it all Lincoln seemed unruffled, though 

1 Galusha A. Grow, of Pennsylvania, Speaker of the House of 


inwardly he was in great distress. A deputation of 
leading citizens of Baltimore waited on the President 
and begged him not to persist in sending troops by 
way of their city, because the mob was unmanage- 
able; but these "whining traitors," as Hay calls 
them, promised that the loyal regiments should cross 
the State unmolested if they would avoid Baltimore. 
In the interest of conciliation, the President con- 
sented; but he declared that he would not again 
interfere with the war measures of the army. 

Secretary Seward, more excited and less concilia- 
tory, felt sure that the New York Seventh Regiment 
could cut their way through three thousand rioters; 
and he protested "that Baltimore delenda est, and 
other things," Hay adds with characteristic humor. 
But before Baltimore could be deleted, the Govern- 
ment must have at its disposal the very regiments to 
which Baltimore barred the way. 

Old General Spinner, too, "was fierce and jubi- 
lant" at the news which seemed to him to hold out 
the pleasure of destroying traitors everywhere. " No 
frenzied poet," writes Hay, "ever predicted the ruin 
of a hostile house with more energy and fervor than 
he issued the rescript against Baltimore. ... He was 
peculiarly disgusted with the impertinence of Dela- 
ware. 'The contemptible little neighborhood, with- 
out population enough for a decent country village, 


gets up on her hind legs and talks about armed neu- 
trality. The only good use for traitors is to hang 
them. They are worth more dead than alive.' Thus 
the old liberty-loving Teuton raged." 

At length, on April 25, the blockade was raised. 
The Seventh New York came through to the Capital 
without damage, and on the next day Massachu- 
setts and Rhode Island troops arrived in large num- 
bers. " Those who were in Washington on that 
Thursday, April 25," writes Hay, "will never during 
their lives, forget the event." l From that time on 
the transportation of Northern regiments across 
Baltimore ceased to be opposed. 

On the 25th, Hay records that the President, who 
14 seemed to be in a pleasant, hopeful mood," said: 
11 1 intend, at present, always leaving an opportunity 
for change of mind, to fill Fortress Monroe with men 
and stores; blockade the ports effectually; provide 
for the entire safety of the Capital ; keep them quietly 
employed in this way, and then go down to Charles- 
ton and pay her the little debt we are owing her." 

The President would not, however, countenance 
severity until conciliation had failed. Witness this 
memorandum, also dated April 25: 

"General Butler has sent an imploring request to 
the President to be allowed to bag the whole nest of 
1 N. &. H., iv, 156. 


traitorous Maryland legislators and bring them in 
triumph here. This the Tycoon, wishing to observe 
every comity even with a recusant State, forbade." 

Hay's hurried pen-portraits of the actors in this 
strange drama, as the examples I have cited show, 
possess the life-likeness of latter-day snap-shots. He 
has not only the knack of drawing vividly with a few 
strokes, but also a store of humor, which he sprays 
over them like a fixative. Thus, after calling on 
Governor William Sprague, of Rhode Island, he re- 
cords: " A small, insignificant youth, who his 

place; but who is certainly all right now. He is very 
proud of his company, of its wealth and social 

Carl Schurz, the German Liberal, who sought re- 
fuge as an exile to the United States, and in a few 
years was transformed into one of the most genuine 
American patriots of his time, is often referred to by 
Hay, who writes on April 26: " Carl Schurz was here 
to-day. He spoke with wild enthusiasm of his desire 
to mingle in the war. He has great confidence in his 
capability of arousing the enthusiasm of the young. 
He contemplates the career of a great guerrilla chief 
with ardent longing. He objects to the taking of 
Charleston and advises foraging on the interior 
States. . . . The Seventh Regiment band played glo- 
riously on the shaven lawn at the south front of the 


Executive Mansion. The scene was very beautiful. 
Through the luxuriant grounds, the gayly dressed 
crowd idly strolled, soldiers loafed on the prome- 
nades, the martial music filled the sweet air with 
vague suggestion of heroism, and C. Schurz and the 
President talked war." 

On April 29 we have this entry: " Going into Nico- 
lay's room this morning, C. Schurz and J. Lane were 
sitting. Jim was at the window, filling his soul with 
gall by steady telescopic contemplation of a Seces- 
sion flag impudently flaunting over a roof in Alexan- 
dria. ' Let me tell you,' said he to the elegant Teuton, 
'we have got to whip these scoundrels like hell, C. 
Schurz. They did a good thing stoning our men at 
Baltimore and shooting away the flag at Sumter. It 
has set the great North a-howling for blood, and 
they '11 have it/ 

114 1 heard/ said Schurz, 'you preached a sermon 
to your men yesterday/ 

11 ' No, sir! this is not time for preaching. When I 
went to Mexico there were four preachers in my regi- 
ment. In less than a week I issued orders for them 
all to stop preaching and go to playing cards. In a 
month or so, they were the biggest devils and best 
fighters I had/ 

"An hour afterwards, C. Schurz told me he was 
going home to arm his clansmen for the wars. He has 


obtained three months' leave of absence from his 
diplomatic duties, and permission to raise a cavalry 
regiment. I doubt the propriety of the movement. 
He will make a wonderful land pirate; bold, quick, 
brilliant, and reckless. He will be hard to control and 
difficult to direct. Still, we shall see. He is a won- 
derful man." 

A fortnight later, while the Marine Band played 
on the south lawn, Schurz sat with Lincoln on the 
balcony. "After the President had kissed some thou- 
sand children, Carl went into the library and devel- 
oped a new accomplishment. He played with great 
skill and feeling, sitting in the dusk twilight at the 
piano until the President came by and took him 
down to tea. Schurz is a wonderful man. An orator, 
a soldier, a philosopher, an exiled patriot, a skilled 
musician! He has every quality of romance and of 
romantic picturesqueness." 

The evident spell which Carl Schurz cast over 
John Hay was not accidental. Schurz, though less 
than ten years older than Hay, had seen and done 
many things. Uprooted from his native soil, he was 
flourishing in the land of his adoption. He embodied 
versatility, carried beyond the stage of the dilettante 
to that of the master; he was a cosmopolite. To be 
versatile and cosmopolitan were instincts which 
Nature had planted in John Hay at his birth 


ideals toward which he had been unconsciously grop- 
ing since his earliest boyhood. 

So Schurz fascinated him: but the person who 
dominated him from his first day in the White House 
was Lincoln. At the outset, the President's homeli- 
ness, which was, in fact, primal simplicity, must have 
amused him: for Hay had a keen eye for social dis- 
tinctions and was already well versed in the lore of 
manners which opens doors that neither birth, wealth, 
nor genius can unlock. That the former rail-splitter 
should occupy a position in which, among his other 
functions, he was head of the official society of the 
Capital of the Nation, must have tickled Hay's sense 
of the comic. But soon Lincoln's great qualities 
his patience and love of justice, his readiness to lis- 
ten, his fortitude impressed the young secretary. 
Lincoln's supreme naturalness, too, could not be re- 
sisted by any one who looked below the surface. Hay 
loved humor, and here was Nature's master humor- 
ist of that age; Hay loved wit, and here was a mind 
of singular penetration and clearness, which saw 
right to the heart of principles and could state them 
in language that a child understood. One by one, the 
best minds in Washington came into contact with 
Lincoln; he met them squarely and seldom failed 
to expose their fallacy, if there were one, or to up- 
hold his own decision, if he approved it, by a phrase 


or story not to be forgotten. The speeches of the 
famous orators at the Capitol have faded; Lincoln's 
remain. Thanks to his corrections, the State papers 
of the elegant Seward are still read ; and Sumner also, 
the chief academic orator in Congress, might have 
profited if he had condescended to take the untu- 
tored Westerner for a schoolmaster. 

Hay and Nicolay, drawn to Lincoln by his unusual 
geniality, little suspected at first that he was destined 
to be, through his unique combination of character 
and ability, the savior of the Republic. To each 
other they referred to him familiarly as "the An- 
cient," or "the Tycoon": and Hay, at least, though 
full of veneration, sometimes made merry over the 
Chief's oddities. The Diary abounds in glimpses of 
Lincoln during the critical month of April. 

If ever a ruler had an excuse for showing anxiety, 
Lincoln had at that moment. Fort Sumter fell on 
April 15; on the I7th, Virginia seceded; on the i8th, 
the Union troops retired from Harper's Ferry and 
its arsenal; on the I9th, the Sixth Massachusetts was 
mobbed in Baltimore, and then followed the destruc- 
tion of the railroad bridges and the cutting of the 
telegraphs; on the 2Oth, Robert E. Lee, whose ap- 
pointment as commander of the Northern Army was 
pending, went over to Virginia, and drew a large 
number of army and navy officers with him to the 


South; on the 2Oth, also, the Gosport Arsenal had 
to be abandoned. Yet in public Lincoln kept up his 
usual manner, and so successfully that strangers 
thought him either indifferent or shallow. Only once, 
in his private office, after peering long down the 
Potomac for the ships which were to bring the troops, 
believing himself to be alone, he exclaimed, " with 
irrepressible anguish, 'Why don't they come! Why 
don't they come! '" 

The next day, when some battered soldiers of the 
Sixth Massachusetts called on him, he "fell into a 
tone of irony to which only intense feeling ever 
drove him : ' I begin to believe,' he said, ' that there is 
no North. The Seventh Regiment is a myth. Rhode 
Island is another. You are the only real thing.'" l 

The young secretary, who overheard Lincoln's 
cry of anguish and was present at this interview, 
began to divine the depths of the President's nature. 

In a few days, the tension being relieved, Hay 
writes: "Three Indians of the Pottawatomies called 
to-day upon their Great Father. The President 
amused them greatly by airing the two or three In- 
dian words he knew. I was amused by his awkward 
efforts to make himself understood by speaking bad 
English; e.g., 'Where live now? When go back 

' N. & H., iv, 152-53. 


Northern newspapers began to scold at the incom- 
petence of the Administration, and the New York 
Times advised the immediate resignation of the 
Cabinet and warned Lincoln that he would be super- 
seded: but that sort of hostility never worried him, 
and he joked about the Times' s proposal to depose 

On May 7 Hay writes: "I went in to give the 
President some little items of Illinois news, saying 
among other things that S. was behaving very badly. 
He replied with emphasis that S. was a miracle of 
meanness; calmly looking out of the window at the 
smoke of two strange steamers puffing up the way, 
resting the end of the telescope on his toes sublime." 

Hay referred to Browning's suggestion that the 
North should subjugate the South, exterminate the 
whites, set up a black republic, and protect the 
negroes "while they raised our cotton/' 

"'Some of our Northerners seem bewildered and 
dazzled by the excitement of the hour,'" Lincoln 
replied. "' Doolittle 1 seems inclined to think that 
this war is to result in the entire abolition of slavery. 
Old Colonel Hamilton, a venerable and most respect- 
able gentleman, impresses upon me most earnestly 
the propriety of enlisting the slaves in our army.' (I 
told him his daily correspondence was thickly inter- 

1 Senator James R. Doolittle, of Wisconsin. 


spersed by such suggestions.) 'For my own part/ 
he said, 4 1 consider the central idea pervading this 
struggle is the necessity that is upon us of proving 
that popular government is not an absurdity. We 
must settle this question now, whether, in a free gov- 
ernment, the minority have the right to break up 
the government whenever they choose. If we fail, 
it will go far to prove the incapability of the people to 
govern themselves. There may be one considera- 
tion used in stay of such final judgment, but that is 
not for us to use in advance: That is, that there exists 
in our case an instance of a vast and far-reaching dis- 
turbing element, which the history of no other free 
nation will probably ever present. That, however, 
is not for us to say at present. Taking the govern- 
ment as we found it, we will see if the majority can 
preserve it. 1 " 

This statement, spoken offhand to his secretary, 
reveals the foundation of Lincoln's judgment on the 
War of the Rebellion: there was at stake something 
more precious than the preservation of the Union, 
something more urgent than the abolition of slavery, 
and that was Democracy. Two years and a half 
later, in his address at Gettysburg, he put into one 
imperishable sentence the thought of which this is 
the germ. 

Occasionally Hay jots down Lincoln's literary 


preferences. One evening, he reports, there was 
much talk between him and Seward on Daniel Web- 
ster, "in which the financial sanssoucism of the great 
man was strikingly prominent. Seward thought he 
would not live, nor Clay, a tithe as long as John 
Quincy Adams. The President disagreed with him, 
and thought Webster will be read forever." 

The President's unfashionable habits come in for 
playful mention. On hearing that the Honorable 
Robert Bourke, son of the Irish Earl of Mayo, was 
about to visit Washington, Hay writes to a friend: 
"I hope W. will find it out and, by way of showing 
him a delicate attention, take him to the observa- 
tional settee whence, on clear afternoons, is to be 
seen, windows favoring, the Presidential ensarking 
and bifurcate dischrysalisizing." (August 21, 1861.) 

It was well that Hay gave vent to his humor; be- 
cause the burden of his work soon became oppres- 
sive, and before the summer was far advanced 
Washington, which, despite its unpaved streets and 
shanties and unhidden squalor, had been a holiday 
city, took on a gloomy air. Regiments poured in 
from all parts of the North and camped in the open 
spaces. Troops marched to and fro. Munitions and 
provisions were collected and despatched. On the 
Potomac naval preparations went forward. Civilians 
in government employ were actually busy, and their 


superiors, cabinet officers, and heads of bureaus, be- 
gan to look careworn. With the heat, the fashion- 
able residents, and the families of officials, fled as 
usual to Northern watering-places. At last the Amer- 
ican Capital gave itself up in earnest to the grim 
business of war. 

And yet, many persons still doubted whether the 
conflict would be either general or long drawn out. 
Optimists predicted that at the first reverse the 
Southern Confederacy would collapse; and, accord- 
ingly, influential newspapers clamored for action, 
while self -constituted advisers belabored the Presi- 
dent with suggestions and berated him for not fol- 
lowing them. The Administration had a foretaste 
of what a free press is capable of in time of war. The 
editor of a metropolitan daily would probably shrink 
from telling a dentist how to fill a tooth, and even 
the omniscient reporter of a country weekly might 
hesitate to instruct a surgeon in an operation for 
cancer; but both these gentlemen, and most of their 
neighbors and fellow citizens, feel wholly competent 
to direct lifelong experts in the highly specialized 
and intricate art of war. Yet it must be said that, as 
experts were few in 1861, advice had to come largely 
from novices; and why should the average man, who 
beheld the editor or politician of yesterday given 
command of a regiment to-day, consider his own 

opinions on the conduct of the campaign as worth- 

Side by side with the importunities of amateur 
strategists went the nagging of political wiseacres. 
Happy Alexander and Caesar and Hannibal, happy 
Marlborough and Napoleon! Conducting their cam- 
paigns before the days of railroads or telegraphs, 
they were not required to change their plans from 
hour to hour in order to keep pace with the hysteri- 
cal fluctuations of the public at home. In the Amer- 
ican Civil War this malign influence marred the mil- 
itary plans to an extent till then unprecedented. 
That such meddling was inevitable, however, seems 
to be John Hay's opinion; for he approved, if he did 
not actually write, the following lines: 

''Historical judgment of war is subject to an in- 
flexible law, either very imperfectly understood or 
very constantly lost sight of. Military writers love to 
fight over the campaigns of history exclusively by 
the rules of the professional chess-board, always sub- 
ordinating, often totally ignoring, the element of 
politics. This is a radical error. Every war is begun, 
dominated, and ended by political considerations; 
without a nation, without a government, without 
money or credit, without popular enthusiasm which 
furnishes volunteers, or public support which en- 
dures conscription, there could be no army and no 


war neither beginning nor end of methodical hos- 
tilities. War and politics, campaign and statecraft 
are Siamese twins, inseparable and independent; to 
talk of military operations without the direction and 
interference of an Administration is as absurd as to 
plan a campaign without recruits, pay, or rations." l 

In this forcible statement Hay filed his caveat 
against the censure, which has been widespread and 
weighty, of the direction of the Union campaigns 
from Washington and of the sensitiveness of the Ad- 
ministration to political exigencies. 

Both these conditions sprang up as soon as the 
volunteer regiments were ready for service. General 
Scott, the veteran head of the regular army, pro- 
posed his "anaconda plan," of blockading the coast 
and establishing a cordon of garrisons down the 
Mississippi, a device by which he thought the Con- 
federacy might soon be strangled. He also counseled 
delay till the autumn. The North, however, clam- 
ored for action. It felt the sting of the humiliation 
of Sumter and Baltimore and of more recent rebuffs: 
it believed that the Government was now strong 
enough to crush the Rebellion; it remembered that 
the term of the ninety-day men would soon run out. 

Lincoln recognized the need of keeping public 

1 N. & H., IV, 359-60. This passage seems to me to bear Hay's 


opinion enthusiastic, and, having made every mili- 
tary provision for a successful movement, he ordered 
an advance. Union General McDowell was to engage 
Rebel General Beauregard at Manassas, while Union 
General Patterson crushed Rebel General Johnston 
at Winchester. On July 21 the battle was fought at 
Bull Run; but the incompetent Patterson had al- 
lowed Johnston to slip by him, and McDowell, being 
confronted by both Beauregard and Johnston, was 
utterly beaten. His undisciplined troops, seized by 
panic, scampered as best they could through the 
darkness and the rain for Washington, nearly thirty 
miles off. 

Hay describes how the President passed that 
eventful Sunday; he was anxious from the first, but 
reassured when frequent telegrams reported con- 
tinued success. After dinner the President went to 
General Scott's office, only to find that burly old 
gentleman taking his afternoon nap. Scott roused 
himself long enough to declare that all must go well, 
and then, on the President's departure, he returned 
to sleep. But at six o'clock, while the President was 
out driving, Secretary Seward hurried over to the 
White House with a telegram announcing that the 
battle was lost and McDowell routed, and to urge 
that steps be taken to save the Capital from the pur- 
suing enemy. All night long Lincoln stayed in his 


office giving directions, reading despatches, or listen- 
ing to the reports of eye-witnesses, who began to 
reach the city about midnight. 

Monday, the 22d of July, was one of the dismalest 
days Washington had ever seen. Before afternoon 
the news spread that the Rebels, having given up 
the pursuit, were not about to attack the outposts; 
but every one realized that the war, alternately 
dreaded and doubted for forty years, had come in 



' | MD sketch, even in outline, the history of the 
A Civil War, is not my purpose : for this is a life 
of John Hay, and the war interests us here only in 
so far as it concerns him, or as he sheds light on men 
and events, and especially on Abraham Lincoln. 
We have seen in the last chapter how quickly he 
adapted himself to his new situation. There is no 
more talk of his being doomed to waste his days in 
the materialistic, unshorn West; no suggestion of the 
poet in exile; no further reference to filling an early 
grave. He had neither deserted the Muse nor re- 
nounced his ideals: he had simply responded, as a 
healthy young man should, to the stimulation which 
comes with action in a supreme cause. 

He was discovering that life transcended the 
fragments and echoes of it which passed for life in 
his books. He lay now under the spell of the Deed. 
Having among his many talents the gift of keen and 
enlightened curiosity, he watched men with the in- 
terest with which one follows the fortunes of the 
characters in a novel or a play. He was a sharp ob- 
server; sophisticated, chiefly through his reading, 


but not cynical: and he found unceasing amusement 
in human eccentricities. 

Except at Paris during the French Revolution, 
there was never such a strange multitude, jumbled 
and incongruous, gathered in a modern city as 
that which swarmed in Washington from 1861 to 
1865. It comprised men of every social class: toilers 
from farm and shop and clerks from counting-rooms; 
Eastern bankers and teachers; Western backwoods- 
men, miners, and adventurers. It was swelled by 
office-seekers a sordid gang, having one common 
instinct, the prehensile, among them ; and by unnum- 
bered contractors, sutlers, and speculators. Most 
conspicuous of all was the endless stream of volun- 
teers, who flowed in at first by companies and bat- 
talions, next by thousands and tens of thousands, and 
so on up to hundreds of thousands infantry, cav- 
alry, artillery. You can still hear the incessant tramp 
of the foot-soldiers and the clatter of the horse, with 
the roll of drum and rumble of cannon, and the shrill, 
saucy call of the fifes: on they go over the bridges 
into Virginia, and many never come back. 

Amid the brutal surge of life swept the ever-broad- 
ening torrent of Death: ambulances and wagons 
loaded and dripping with the wounded; hospitals 
bursting with bodies, mutilated but still alive, haunts 
of agony or delirium; surgeons, doctors, nurses, at 


work till they dropped exhausted; hearses, carts, 
caissons bearing coffins, attended by few or no 
mourners, on the hurried transfer to the cemetery, 
and then the lowering into the shallow grave, the 
clipped sentences of blessing from the minister or 
the volley of farewell; while day and night grief- 
stricken fathers and frantic mothers were searching 
for their sons, or at least for the maimed corpses 
of their sons. Through it all, the plot of the world- 
drama worked itself out. 

And as if he were the privileged of Destiny, John 
Hay watches the unfolding of the spectacle from the 
White House, as from a proscenium box. Nor is he a 
mere looker-on. He is always at the President's right 
hand to do the President's bidding. What he sees 
and what he hears has due weight in shaping the 
President's decisions. For John Hay was a witness 
to be trusted: discreet, clear-sighted, businesslike, 
and, above all, sympathetic to Lincoln, who enjoyed 
equally his frankness and his humor. 

After Bull Run, work at the White House re- 
doubled, the conduct of the war taking up the lion's 
share of energy. The capital question of choosing 
officers for the rapidly swelling army arose at every 
turn. Civilian troops had to be commanded by ci- 
vilian colonels, willing but necessarily ignorant. 
The higher grades were often filled for any other 


reason except the military. Politicians, quick to 
scent profit for themselves, secured commissions by 
the same methods which brought them political 
honors and lucre. If governors of States could not re- 
sist the pressure of aspiring statesmen, how could it 
be expected that the President and his Secretary 
of War should always select wisely among candi- 
dates of whom they had no personal knowledge? 
And if battles were fought to appease public clamor, 
why was it not logical to assign brigadierships to 
gentlemen who controlled the political majority of 
a large district, or even, it might be, of a doubtful 
State? The problem of 1861, be it remembered, was 
to secure, by hook or by crook, the loyalty of every 

To the historian a conversation may be as impor- 
tant as a battle. Here, for instance, is Hay's minute 
of a talk in which Mr. Lincoln disclosed quite can- 
didly his conciliatory policy toward the South before 
he became President. 

11 October 22, 1861. At Seward's to-night the Presi- 
dent talked about Secession, Compromise, and other 
such. He spoke of a committee of Pseudo-Unionists 
coming to him before Inauguration for guarantees, 
etc. He promised to evacuate Sumter if they would 
break up their Convention, without any row or non- 
sense. They demurred. Subsequently, he renewed 


proposition to Summers [?], but without any result. 
The President was most anxious to prevent blood- 

On November 8, 1861, John Hay records that a 
" cheeky letter" has just been received from Benja- 
min F. Butler, of Massachusetts, who, with charac- 
teristic modesty writes the President: 

MY DEAR SIR, Gen'l Wool has resigned. Gen'l 
Fremont must. Gen'l Scott has retired. 

I have an ambition, and I trust a laudable one, 
to be Major-General of the United States Army. 

Has anybody done more to deserve it? No one 
will do more. May I rely upon you, as you may have 
confidence in me, to take this matter into considera- 

I will not disgrace the position. I may fail in its 


Truly yrs., 



P.S. I have made the same suggestion to others 
of my friends. 

This was a specimen letter, illustrative of many. 
How to deal with the rapaciously immodest is the 
special task of democracy. In earlier times they 


throve by the monarch's favor, and dutiful subjects 
sought no other explanation of their prosperity; 
now, their promotion accuses the public itself. 

Hay's early references to McClellan prepare us 
for that commander's subsequent abysmal failure. 
Called to Washington on July 26, McClellan took 
charge of organizing into a fighting army the troops, 
which were reaching the city at the rate of a regi- 
ment a day. For that work he possessed uncommon 
ability, and to this was added the knowledge gained 
from his West Point training, from service in the 
regular army, and from inspection of the European 
armies. He not only knew what was to be done, but 
he had the art of persuading everybody that he was 
the only man who could do it. His self-esteem, by 
nature abnormally developed, swelled at last into 
an elephantiasis of the ego. But among the hesita- 
tions, perplexities, and gropings of the summer of 
1 86 1, the value of McClellan's self-assurance was 
quite as obvious as that of his technical competence. 
The Army of the Potomac, moulded under his direc- 
tion, felt for him an enthusiasm bordering on infatua- 
tion and proof against the disillusion of subsequent 
defeats. Though he was beaten in many fights, out- 
generaled in his plans of campaign, and outmarched 
and baffled by inferior forces, and though, through 
a palsy of the will, he failed to convert Antietam 


into a sweeping victory, perhaps into a death- 
blow of the Rebellion, his infatuated supporters, 
persisting in claiming that his primacy as a com- 
mander was still unrivaled, always threw the blame 
on others. 

Truth to tell, from the day he came to Washington, 
McClellan was in danger of being smothered by adu- 
lation. The North, frantic for a general to avenge its 
defeats and to put down Secession, believed that in 
McClellan it had the man. It imputed to him qual- 
ities he never possessed; it glorified his undoubted 
points of excellence; it sought for happy parallels 
and propitious signs to confirm its confidence. Na- 
poleon was short of stature so was " Little Mac " ; 
Napoleon was young and self-reliant so was 
"Little Mac": what could be more logical than to 
continue the parallel until it led to a Marengo and 
an Austerlitz for " Little Mac"? McClellan was a 
Democrat; and this enhanced his importance, be- 
cause it advertised to the world that the Northern 
Democrats would stand by the Union. 

President Lincoln welcomed McClellan's coming, 
and besides giving him every aid in forming the 
army, deferred to his plans and methods. Hay, who 
had a young man's impatience at too obtrusive con- 
ceit, was present at many of their interviews, and 
seems very early to have doubted "Little Mac's" 


omniscience. On October 22, 1861, he writes that 
the President and the General talked over the death 
of Colonel Baker at Leesburg. 

"McClellan said: 'There is many a good fellow 
that wears the shoulder-straps going under the sod 
before the thing is over. There is no loss too great to 
be repaired. If I should get knocked on the head, 
Mr. President, you will put another man immediately 
in my shoes/ ' I want you to take care of yourself/ 
said the President. McClellan seemed very hopeful 
and confident thought he had the enemy, if in 
force or not. During this evening's conversation, 
it became painfully evident that he had no plan 
nor the slightest idea of what Stone l was about." 

In those early days the President used to call in- 
formally at McClellan's office to inquire how the 
work was going or to make suggestions. At one of 
these casual calls, on October 10, McClellan said: 
" I think we shall have our arrangements made for 
a strong reconnoissance about Monday, to feel the 
strength of the army. I intend to be careful and to 
do as well as possible. Don't let them hurry me is 
all I ask." "You shall have your own way in the 
matter, I assure you," said the President, and went 

1 Brigadier-General Charles P. Stone. The battle of Ball's Bluff 
was fought on the preceding day, October 21, 1861. 


That refrain, " Don't let them hurry me!" was to 
be the burden of McClellan's talk and despatches 
throughout his service. 

A few days later, McClellan traversed Senator 
B. F. Wade's opinion that an unsuccessful battle 
was preferable to delay, because a defeat could easily 
be repaired by the swarming recruits. [I] "would 
rather have a few recruits after a victory than a 
good many after a defeat." Lincoln regretted the 
popular impatience, but held that it ought to be 
reckoned with. "'At the same time, General/" he 
said, "'you must not fight till you are ready.' 'I 
have everything at stake/ said the General; 'if I 
fail, I will not see you again or anybody.' ' I have a 
notion to go out with you, and stand or fall with the 
battle,'" Lincoln replied. 

On November i, McClellan succeeded Scott in 
command of the Army. The President in thanking 
him, said: 

" ' I should be perfectly satisfied if I thought that 
this vast increase of responsibility would not em- 
barrass you.' 'It is a great relief, sir! I feel as if 
several tons were taken from my shoulders to-day. 
I am now in contact with you and the Secretary. 
I am not embarrassed by intervention.' ' Well,' says 
the President, 'draw on me for all the sense I have, 
and all the information. In addition to your present 


command, the supreme command of the Army 
will entail a vast labor upon you/ ' I can do it all, 1 
McClellan said quietly." 

Hay evidently felt that this sublime assertion 
spoke for itself, but perhaps McClellan sounded 
more conceited than he intended. On November n, 
Hay notes that McClellan promises to "feel" the 
Rebels on the next day the first of many such 
promises. His entry for November 13 reads: 

"I wish here to record what I consider a portent 
of evil to come. The President, Governor Seward, 
and I went over to McClellan's home to-night. The 
servant at the door said the General was at the wed- 
ding of Colonel Wheaton at General Buell's and 
would soon return. We went in, and after we had 
waited about an hour, McClellan came in, and with- 
out paying particular attention to the porter who 
told him the President was waiting to see him, went 
up-stairs, passing the door of the room where the 
President and Secretary of State were seated. They 
waited about half an hour, and sent once more 
a servant to tell the General they were there; and 
the answer came that the General had gone to 

"I merely record this unparalleled insolence of 
epaulettes without comment. It is the first indica- 
tion I have yet seen of the threatened supremacy 


of the military authorities. Coming home, I spoke 
to the President about the matter, but he seemed not 
to have noticed it specially, saying it were better at 
this time not to be making points of etiquette and 
personal dignity." 

It was this invincible patience, called by some 
men vacillation and by others attributed to obtuse- 
ness, which proved in the end one source of Lincoln's 
mastery. Patience, the least showy of the virtues, 
works cumulatively; but what she does endures. 
There could be no finer example of the contrast be- 
tween shadow and substance than appeared that 
winter in McClellan and Lincoln: Little Mac self- 
confident, idolized, showered with laurels before his 
battles, and barely condescending to listen to the 
advice of his chief; and the magnanimous President, 
bent on hearing all sides, suspending judgment until 
he had considered every fact, and loyally supplying 
the General with everything he demanded. 

Winter passed, spring came, the nation longed to 
have the Army of the Potomac put to the test, but 
still McClellan delayed. The following extracts from 
Hay's brief notes to Nicolay, absent from Washing- 
ton, to whom he wrote as confidentially as in his 
Diary, shows how the young secretary felt: 

"March ji, 1862. Little Mac sails to-day for 
down-river. He was in last night to see Tycoon. 


He was much more pleasant and social in manner 
than formerly. He seems to be anxious for the good 
opinion of everyone." 

"Thursday morning [April 3d]. McClellan is in 
danger, not in front, but in rear. The President is 
making up his mind to give him a peremptory order 
to march. It is disgraceful to think how the little 
squad at Yorktown keeps him at bay." 

"Friday, April 4, 1862. McClellan is at last in 
motion. He is now moving on Richmond. The secret 
is very well kept. Nobody out of the Cabinet knows 
it in town." 

"April p, 1862. Glorious news comes borne on 
every wind but the South Wind. While Pope is cross- 
ing the turbid and broad torrent of the Mississippi 
in the blaze of the enemy's fire, and Grant is fighting 
the overwhelming legions of Buckner at Pittsburg, 
the Little Napoleon sits trembling before the hand- 
ful of men at Yorktown, afraid either to fight or run. 
Stanton feels devilish about it. He would like to 
remove him, if he thought it would do." 

At last the time came when even Lincoln's pa- 
tience was exhausted. After McClellan's long series 
of blunders on the Peninsula, he was superseded by 
Pope, who, at the end of August, 1862, prepared to 
strike the Confederate Army. On August 30, the 
very day when Jackson and Longstreet were thrash- 


ing Pope at Bull Run, Hay rode into Washington 
from the Soldiers' Home with Lincoln. 

14 We talked," he says, "about the state of things 
by Bull Run and Pope's prospect. The President was 
very outspoken in regard to McClellan's present con- 
duct. He said that really it seemed to him that Mc- 
Clellan wanted Pope defeated. He mentioned to me 
a dispatch of McClellan's in which he proposed, as 
one plan of action, to ' leave Pope to get out of his own 
scrape and devote ourselves to securing Washing- 
ton.' He also spoke of McClellan's dreadful panic 
in the matter of Chain Bridge, which he had ordered 
blown up the night before, but which order had been 
countermanded ; and also of his incomprehensible in- 
terference with Franklin's corps, which he recalled 
once, and then, when they had been sent ahead by 
Halleck's order, begged permission to recall them 
again; and only desisted after Halleck's sharp injunc- 
tion to push them ahead until they whipped some- 
thing, or got whipped themselves. The President 
seemed to think him a little crazy. Envy, jealousy, 
and spite are probably a better explanation of his 
present conduct. He is constantly sending dis- 
patches to the President and Halleck asking what 
is his real position and command. He acts as chief 
alarmist and grand marplot of the army." 

Halleck, on the contrary, the President said, had 


no prejudices. "[He] is wholly for the service. He 
does not care who succeeds or who fails, so the ser- 
vice is benefited. 

"Later in the day we were in Halleck's room. 
Halleck was at dinner, and Stanton came in while 
we were waiting for him, and carried us off to dinner. 
A pleasant little dinner and a pretty wife as white 
and cold and motionless as marble, whose rare smiles 
seemed to pain her. Stanton was loud about the 
McClellan business. He was unqualifiedly severe 
upon McClellan. He said that after these battles 
there should be one court-martial, if never any more. 
He said that nothing but foul play could lose us this 
battle, and that it rested with McClellan and his 
friends. Stanton seemed to believe very strongly 
in Pope. So did the President, for that matter." 

Nevertheless, after Pope's defeat at Second Bull 
Run the President concluded that McClellan must 
be restored to the command of the Army of the 

"'He has acted badly in this matter [the Presi- 
dent admitted to Hay], but we must use what tools 
we have. There is no man in the army who can man 
these fortifications and lick these troops of ours into 
shape half as well as he.' I spoke of the general feel- 
ing against McClellan as evinced by the President's 
mail. He rejoined: 'Unquestionably he has acted 


badly toward Pope. He wanted him to fail. That 
is unpardonable. But he is too useful just now to 
sacrifice.' At another time he said: ' If he can't fight 
himself, he excels in making others ready to fight.' " 

So "Little Mac" once more led the Army of the 
Potomac; not for long, however, because after his 
virtual failure at Antietam (September 17, 1862) 
and his allowing Stuart to ride round the Army 
of the Potomac and raid Chambersburg, popular 
clamor demanded his dismissal. And Lincoln, the 
long-suffering, convinced that the time had come, 
relieved him. 

Two years later McClellan was the Democratic 
nominee for President. On September 25, Hay re- 
cords that a letter had just come from Nicolay, who 
was in New York, stating that Thurlow Weed, the 
dominant Republican leader in New York State, 
with whom Nicolay was to confer, had gone to Can- 
ada. When Hay showed the President the letter he 
said: " I think I know where Mr. Weed has gone. I 
think he has gone to Vermont, not Canada. I will 
tell you what he is trying to do. I have not as yet 
told anybody." 

And then Lincoln proceeded to unfold the follow- 
ing story of a remarkable intrigue: 

11 'Some time ago the Governor of Vermont came 
to me "on business of importance," he said. I fixed 


an hour and he came. His name is Smith. He is, 
though you would not think it, a cousin of Baldy 
Smith. 1 Baldy is large, blond, florid. The Governor 
is a little, dark sort of man. This is the story he told 
me, giving General Baldy Smith as his authority: 

11 'When General McClellan was here at Washing- 
ton [in 1862] B. Smith was very intimate with him. 
They had been together at West Point, and friends. 
McClellan had asked for promotion for Baldy from 
the President, and got it. They were close and 
confidential friends. When they went down to the 
Peninsula their same intimate relations contin- 
ued, the General talking freely with Smith about 
all his plans and prospects, until one day Fernando 
Wood and one other [Democratic] politician from 
New York appeared in camp and passed some days 
with McClellan. 

'"From the day this took place Smith saw, or 
thought he saw, that McClellan was treating him 
with unusual coolness and reserve. After a little 
while he mentioned this to McClellan, who, after 
some talk, told Baldy he had something to show him. 
He told him that these people who had recently 
visited him had been urging him to stand as an oppo- 
sition candidate for President; that he had thought 
the thing over and had concluded to accept their 

1 General William F. Smith, the eminent Union commander. 


propositions, and had written them a letter (which he 
had not yet sent) giving his idea of the proper way of 
conducting the war, so as to conciliate and impress 
the people of the South with the idea that our armies 
were intended merely to execute the laws and pro- 
tect their property, etc., and pledging himself to 
conduct the war in that inefficient, conciliatory style. 

'"This letter he read to Baldy, who, after the 
reading was finished, said earnestly: "General, do 
you not see that looks like treason, and that it will 
ruin you and all of us?" After some further talk 
the General destroyed the letter in Baldy's presence, 
and thanked him heartily for his frank and friendly 
counsel. After this he was again taken into the inti- 
mate confidence of McClellan. 

11 ' Immediately after the battle of Antietam, Wood 
and his familiar came again and saw the General, 
and again Baldy saw an immediate estrangement on 
the part of McClellan. He seemed to be anxious to 
get his intimate friends out of the way and to avoid 
opportunities of private conversation with them. 
Baldy he particularly kept employed on reconnois- 
sances and such work. One night Smith was return- 
ing from some duty he had been performing, and, 
seeing a light in McClellan's tent, he went in to re- 
port. He reported and was about to withdraw, when 
the General requested him to remain. After every 


one was gone he told him those men had been there 
again and had renewed their proposition about the 
Presidency: that this time he had agreed to their 
proposition, and had written them a letter acceding 
to their terms and pledging himself to carry on the 
war in the sense already indicated. This letter he 
read then and there to Baldy Smith. 

" ' Immediately thereafter B. Smith applied to be 
transferred from that army. At very nearly the same 
time other prominent men asked the same Frank- 
lin, Burnside, and others. 

"'Now that letter must be in the possession of 
F. Wood, and it will not be impossible to get it. 
Mr. Weed has, I think, gone to Vermont to see the 
Smiths about it.' " 

Hay continues: 

11 1 was very much surprised at the story and ex- 
pressed my surprise. I said I had always thought 
that McClellan's fault was a constitutional weakness 
and timidity, which prevented him from active and 
timely exertion, instead of any such deep-laid scheme 
of treachery and ambition. 

"The President replied: 'After the battle of An- 
tietam I went up to the field to try to get him to 
move, and came back thinking he would move at 
once. But when I got home he began to argue why 
he ought not to move. I peremptorily ordered him 


to advance. It was nineteen days before he put a man 
over the river. It was nine days longer before he got 
his army across, and then he stopped again, delaying 
on little pretexts of wanting this and that. I began 
to fear he was playing false that he did not want 
to hurt the enemy. I saw how he could intercept 
the enemy on the way to Richmond. I determined 
to make that the test. If he let them get away, I 
would remove him. He did so, and I relieved him. 
I dismissed Major K. for his silly, treasonable talk 
because I feared it was staff-talk, and I wanted an 
example. The letter of Buell furnishes another evi- 
dence in support of that theory. And the story you 
have heard Neill tell about [Governor Horatio] Sey- 
mour's first visit to McClellan, all tallies with this 
story/ " 

The last reference to McClellan in this Diary 
occurs on November II, 1864, at the first meeting 
of the Cabinet after Lincoln's overwhelming re- 
election. The President brought out a sealed paper, 
which he had asked his Cabinet to indorse on August 
23, and when Hay opened it they found it contained 
a brief memorandum in which Lincoln stated that, 
as it was extremely probable that he could not be 
reflected, he intended "so to cooperate with the 
President-elect as to save the Union between the 
election and the inauguration." 


"'I resolved, 1 he now told his Cabinet, 'in case 
of the election of General McClellan, . . . that I 
would see him and talk matters over with him. I 
would say, "General, the election has demonstrated 
that you are stronger, have more influence with the 
American people than I. Now let us together you 
with your influence, and I with all the executive 
power of the Government try to save the coun- 
try. You raise as many troops as you possibly can 
for this final trial, and I will devote all my energy to 
assisting and finishing the war. " ' 

"Seward said: 'And the General would answer 
you, " Yes, yes"; and the next day, when you saw 
him again and pressed those views upon him, he 
would say, " Yes, yes 99 ] and so on for ever, and 
would have done nothing at all.' 

"'At least/ added Lincoln, 'I should have done 
my duty, and have stood clear before my own con- 
science. ' " 

With that characteristic expression the record 
closes a record which reveals Lincoln as invin- 
cibly patient, fair, and considerate toward even the 
general who caused him and the upholders of the 
Union so many poignant disappointments. 

I have outrun the chronological order of events in 
order to give unity to Hay's memoranda on McClel- 


Some optimist has described man as a reason- 
ing animal: "a creature with a passion for self-de- 
ception," would be more accurate; for animals do 
reason after their own fashion, whereas, so far as ap- 
pears, they do not indulge in self-deception. On his 
being dismissed, McClellan's friends hinted that he 
was just about to win the decisive battle of the war, 
and his apologists, forgetful of his fifteen months 
of dawdling and disaster, perpetuate in history the 
legend that, if he had been given one more chance, 
he would have silenced his critics forever. 

Hay's memoranda on McClellan, jotted down at 
-the time, have the additional value of revealing 
Lincoln's attitude; and when Hay, twenty years 
later, wrote Lincoln's life, instead of softening or 
reversing his opinion of McClellan's conduct and 
incompetence, he repeated it with emphasis. 

It is precisely such testimony as his that enables 
the historian to discover the state of mind, whether 
personal or collective, out of which came the mo- 
tives which caused the events in any historical epi- 
sode. We need to know the words actually spoken, 
the speech actually delivered, not the expurga- 
ted or embellished revision, purveyed by Hansard 
or by the Congressional Record, because those 
words were integral strands in the web of history. 
We need to know each actor's estimate of his fellows: 


for however unjust, mistaken, or over-favorable that 
estimate may be, it determined action. Lee planned 
differently when he had to deal with Grant and not 
with McClellan. Nine persons out of ten in the 
North, including his Cabinet and Congress, under- 
rated Lincoln during most of his presidential career. 
" Lincoln is a ' Simple Susan,' " wrote Samuel Bowles, 
editor of the Springfield Republican, only six days 
before the inauguration. 1 Had Mr. Bowles lived to 
edit his own letters by the light of subsequent events, 
he would doubtless have substituted his later opin- 
ions, and so would have figured as a successful 
prophet. Unless the historian comes to this knowl- 
edge, he can never show ''the very age and body of 
the time his form and pressure"; the Past will be 
dead to him, an affair of mummies, a deciphering of 
mummy-cases, which no display of erudition con- 
cerning economics, commercial statistics or docu- 
ments can bring to life. 

John Hay's notes and letters serve as peep-holes 
through which, after these many years, we can look 
directly at the persons with whom he was thrown 
during the Rebellion at the moment of action, or we 
can hear their very voices. Fragmentary these re- 
cords are: but they are usually so characteristic, so 

1 G. S. Merriam, Life and Times of Samuel Bowles (New York, 
1885), i, 318. 


vital, so symptomatic, that they reveal much. We 
often regret that this quick-eyed observer lacked the 
time to chronicle regularly each night, as the me- 
thodical Gideon Welles was doing, the happenings 
of the days. Still, the spontaneity of his minutes, 
enhanced by their frankness and vivacious language, 
counterbalances their fragmentariness. 

Acute though Hay was in seeing and keen in judg- 
ing, he did not turn cynic. In spite of the daily ex- 
amples of unbridled selfishness that passed before 
him, his healthy trust in human nature was fortified 
by living close to Lincoln: and then he was only 
twenty- three. 

On September 5, 1862, he reports this bit of con- 
versation with Seward: 

"'Mr. Hay,'" said the Secretary of State," 'what 
is the use of growing old? You learn something of 
men and things, but never until too late to use it. I 
have only just now found out what military jealousy 
is. ... The other day I went down to Alexandria, and 
found General McClellan's army landing. I consid- 
ered our armies united virtually and thought them 
invincible. I went home, and the first news I re- 
ceived was that each had been attacked, and each, in 
effect, beaten. It never had occurred to me that any 
jealousy could prevent these generals from acting for 
their common fame and the welfare of the country/ 


" I said it never would have seemed possible to 
me that one American general should write of an- 
other to the President, suggesting that ' Pope should 
be allowed to get out of his own scrape his own 

"He answered: 'I don't see why you should have 
expected it. You are not old. I should have known 
it.' He said this gloomily and sadly." 

There were, however, moments of elation, when 
good news came from the armies in the field, or the 
political prospect brightened. Thus, on the evening 
after Lincoln read his Emancipation Proclamation 
to the Cabinet, a party of ministers and their friends 
met at Secretary Chase's. "They all seemed to feel 
a sort of new and exhilarated life; they breathed 
freer; the President's Proclamation had freed them 
as well as the slaves. They gleefully and merrily 
called each other and themselves Abolitionists, and 
seemed to enjoy the novel accusation of appropri- 
ating that horrible name." (September 23, 1862.) 

General Joseph Hooker "Fighting Joe" was 
another commander toward whom his contempora- 
ries and posterity have had their reserves. Since the 
military history of the War has come to be stud- 
ied dispassionately, Chancellorsville has risen into 
front rank among the critical battles, and, as Hooker 
commanded at Chancellorsville and was beaten, his 


reputation has, logically, suffered in proportion to 
the growing significance attached to that defeat. 

Hay, however, evidently liked Hooker, of whose 
talks he made several notes. I cite the most impor- 

On September 9, 1863, he dined with Wise, where 
he met Hooker, Butterfield, and Fox. 

"Hooker was in fine flow. ... He says he was 
forced to ask to be relieved by repeated acts which 
proved that he was not to be allowed to manage his 
army as he thought best, but that it was to be man- 
oeuvred from Washington. He instanced Maryland 
Heights, whose garrison he was forbidden to touch, 
yet which was ordered to be evacuated by the very 
mail which brought his (Hooker's) relief. And other 
such many. 

"At dinner he spoke of our army. He says : It was 
the finest on the planet. He would like to see it fight- 
ing with foreigners. ... It was far superior to the 
Southern army in everything but one. It had more 
valor, more strength, more endurance, more spirit; 
the Rebels are only superior in vigor of attack. The 
reason of this is that, in the first place, our army 
came down here capable of everything but ignorant 
of everything. It fell into evil hands the hands of 
a baby, who knew something of drill, little of organi- 
zation, and nothing of the morale of the army. It 


was fashioned by the congenial spirit of this man 
into a mass of languid inertness, destitute of either 
dash or cohesion. The Prince de Joinville, by far 
the finest mind I ever met with in the army, was 
struck by this singular and, as he said, inexplicable 
contrast between the character of American soldiers 
as integers and in mass. The one active, independent, 
alert, enterprising; the other indolent, easy, waste- 
ful, and slothful. It is not in the least singular. You 
find a ready explanation in the character of its origi- 
nal General. . . . 

" Hooker drank very little, not more than the rest, 
who were all abstemious, yet what little he drank 
made his cheek hot and red and his eye brighter. 
I can easily understand how the stories of his drunk- 
enness have grown, if so little affects him as I have 
seen. He was looking very well to-night. A tall and 
statuesque form grand fighting head and grizzled 
russet hair, red, florid cheeks and bright blue 
eyes, forming a strong contrast with Butterfield, who 
sat opposite a small, stout, compact man, with a 
closely chiseled Greek face and heavy black mus- 
taches, like Eugene Beauharnais. Both very hand- 
some and very different." 

"September 10. I dined to-night at Willard's 

Speaking of Lee [Hooker] expressed himself slight- 
ingly of Lee's abilities. He says he was never much 


respected in the army. In Mexico he was surpassed 
by all his lieutenants. In the cavalry he was held 
in no esteem. He was regarded very highly by Gen- 
eral Scott. He was a courtier, and readily recom- 
mended himself by his insinuating manner to the 
General [Scott], whose petulant and arrogant tem- 
per had driven of late years all officers of spirit and 
self-respect away from him. 

"The strength of the Rebel army rests on the 
broad shoulders of Longstreet. He is the brain of 
Lee, as Stonewall Jackson was his right arm. Before 
every battle he had been advised with. After every 
battle Lee may be found in his tent. He is a weak 
man and little of a soldier. He naturally rests on 
Longstreet, who is a soldier born." 

When we recall that only four months earlier 
Hooker, having been beaten at Chancellorsville, 
boasted of successfully withdrawing his army across 
the river from Lee's army, which was not pursuing, 
we shall find more humor in his depreciation of Lee 
than he intended. From the frankness with which 
Hooker and the others talked to Hay we may be 
justified in suspecting that they thought they might 
through him reach the President. Lincoln, who 
never failed to give a man credit for his good quali- 
ties, remarked to Hay, "Whenever trouble arises I 
can always rely on Hooker's magnanimity." 


Hay has some characteristic references to another 
notoriety of that period Benjamin F. Butler 
whom he met at Point Lookout in January, 1864. 

"In the dusk of the evening," he writes, "Gen'l 
Butler came clattering into the roonfwhere Marston 
and I were sitting, followed by a couple of aides. We 
had some hasty talk about business: he told me how 
he was administering the oath at Norfolk; how pop- 
ular it was growing; children cried for it; how he 
hated Jews; how heavily he laid his hand on them; 
'a nation that the Lord had been trying to make 
something of for three thousand years, and had so 
far utterly failed/ ' King John knew how to deal with 
them fried them in swine's fat.' 

"After drinking cider we went down to the Hudson 
City, the General's flagship. His wife, niece, and 
excessively pretty daughter . . . were there at tea. 
... At night, after the ladies had gone off to bed, 
they all said retired, but I suppose it meant the same 
thing in the end, we began to talk about some 
queer matters. Butler had some odd stories about 
physical sympathies . . . and showed a singular 
acquaintance with biblical studies. . . . 

"At Baltimore we took a special car and came 
home. I sat with the General all the way and talked 
with him about many matters: Richmond and its 
long immunity. He says he can take an army within 


thirty miles of Richmond without any trouble; from 
that point the enemy can either be forced to fight 
in the open field south of the city, or submit to be 
starved into surrender. . . . 

11 He gave me some very dramatic incidents of his 
recent action in Fortress Monroe, smoking out ad- 
venturers and confidence men, testing his detectives, 
and matters of that sort. He makes more business 
in that sleepy little Department than any one 
would have dreamed was in it." 

At that sort of work Butler undeniably excelled; 
at fighting, his achievements were restricted to the 
feats he boasted he could perform when the enemy 
was at an entirely safe distance. The proper com- 
ment on his airy capture of Richmond by tongue 
in this conversation with Hay, is to be found in 
Grant's statement of Butler's fiasco in commanding 
the Army of the James. " It was as if Butler were in 
a bottle. . . . He was perfectly safe against an attack; 
but the enemy had corked the bottle and with a 
small force could hold the cork in its place." l 

Grant repeated this indelible epitaph on Butler's 
military career twenty years after the event. How 
Hay and Lincoln commented on him at the time ap- 
pears in this entry in Hay's Diary of May 21,1 864 : 

1 U. S. Grant, Personal Memoirs (New York, 1910), II, 75. Grant 
borrowed the simile from General Barnard. 


" Butler is turning out much as I thought he would 
perfectly useless and incapable for campaigning. 
... I said to the President to-day that I thought 
Butler was the only man in the army in whom power 
would be dangerous. McClellan was too timid and 
vacillating to usurp; Grant was too sound and cool- 
headed and unselfish; Banks also; Fremont would 
be dangerous if he had more ability and energy. 
'Yes/ says the President; 'he is like Jim Jett's 
brother. Jim used to say that his brother was the 
d dest scoundrel that ever lived, but in the in- 
finite mercy of Providence he was also the d dest 

fool." 1 

The paragraph which immediately follows Lin- 
coln's remark concerns another cause of anxiety: 

"The Germans seem inclined to cut up rough 
about the removal of Sigel from command in the 
Shenandoah," Hay writes. "They are heaping up 
wrath against themselves by their clannish imperti- 
nence in politics." l (May 21, 1864.) 

Hay's close friend, during his four years in the 
White House, was Nicolay, who, although of a 
matter-of-fact nature himself, appreciated and en- 
joyed Hay's gleaming wit. Ill-health frequently 

1 General Franz Sigel, who had been defeated several times in 
May and June, 1864, was removed from his command, as a result 
of Early's raid against Washington in July. 


caused Nicolay to go away for rest, and then his 
junior sent him racy letters. 

11 My dear George," he writes on August 21, 1861 : 
" nothing new. An immense crowd that boreth ever. 
Painters who make God's air foul to the nostrils. 
Rain, which makes a man moist and adhesive. 
Dust, which unwholesomely penetrates one's lungs. 
Washington, which makes one swear." 

On April 9, 1862:"! am getting along pretty 
well. I only work about twenty hours a day. I do 
all your work and half of my own now you are away. 
Don't hurry yourself. ... I talk a little French too 
now. I have taken a great notion to the Gerolts. 1 . . . 
Madame la Baronne talked long and earnestly 
of the state of your hygiene, and said 'it was good 
intentions for you to go to the West for small 

In August Nicolay took another vacation. "The 
abomination of desolation has fallen upon this town," 
Hay tells him. " I find I can put in twenty-four hours 
out of every day very easily, in the present state of 
affairs at the Executive Mansion. The crowd con- 
tinually increases instead of diminishing. " (August I , 

There are many references to chills and fever, 
which attacked Hay during his first summer, and kept 

1 Baron Gerolt was the Prussian Minister in Washington. 


coming back to plague him. For exercise, he rides 
"on horseback mornings" the off horse, which 
44 has grown so rampagious by being never driven (I 
have no time to drive) that no one else whom I can 
find can ride him." (August 27, 1862.) 

A year later Hay reports that X. " and his mother 
have gone to the white mountains. (I don't take 
any special stock in the matter, and write the local- 
ity in small letters.) X. was so shattered by the idol 
of all of us, the bright particular Teutonne, that 
he rushed madly off to sympathize with Nature in 
her sternest aspects. . . . This town is as dismal now 
as a defaced tombstone. Everybody has gone. I am 
getting apathetic and write blackguardly articles for 
the Chronicle, from which W. extracts the dirt and 
fun, and publishes the dreary remains." (August 7, 

At the end of that month Hay felt so fatigued that 
he ran off for a few days to Long Branch, and to the 
Brown Commencement, where he "made a small 
chunk of talk." On his return, he found Washington 
as dull "as an obsolete almanac. . . . We have some 
comfortable dinners and some quiet little orgies on 
whiskey and cheese in my room. . . . Next winter 
will be the most exciting and laborious of all our 
lives. It will be worth any other ten." (September 
ii, 1863.) 


And here is an item of a different kind. " My dear 
Nico: Don't, in a sudden spasm of good-nature, send 
any more people with letters to me requesting favors 
from Stanton. I would rather make the tour of a 
smallpox hospital." (November 25, 1863.) 

That there were occasional rifts in the clouds of 
routine, the following playful note to Nicolay at- 

" Society is nil here. The Lorings go to-morrow 
last lingerers. We mingle our tears and exchange 
locks of hair to-night in Corcoran's Row some half 
hundred of us. I went last night to a Sacred Concert 
of profane music at Ford's. Young Kretchmar and 
old Kretchpar were running it. Hs. and H. both sang: 
and they kin if anybody kin. The Tycoon and I 
occupied a private box, and both of us carried on a 
hefty flirtation with the M. girls in the flies. . . . 
I am alone in the White pest-house. The ghosts 
of twenty thousand drowned cats come in nights 
through the south windows. I shall shake my but- 
tons off with ague before you get back." (June 20, 

"The world is almost too many for me," he con- 
fesses on September 24, 1864. " I take a dreary pleas- 
ure in seeing P. eat steamed oysters by the half- 
bushel. . . . S. must be our resource this winter in 
clo'. If you don't want to be surprised into idiocy, 


don't ask C. and L. the price of goods. A faint 
rumor has reached me and paralyzed me. I am 
founding a 'Shabby Club' to make rags the style 
this winter. 1 f 



OEVERAL times during his service at the White 
k3 House, Hay went on political or military er- 
rands. The routine of a secretary's life, even under 
those varied conditions, sometimes wore upon him, 
and he longed for the excitement, and the sense of 
immediate accomplishment, which life in the field 
offered. The President, always considerate, granted 
leave of absence. 

Hay's first trip was to South Carolina. He reached 
Stone River on April 8, 1863, the day after the Union 
fleet made a concerted attack on the forts which de- 
fended Charleston Harbor. At first he heard enthu- 
siastic reports from some of the officers, especially 
from the army staff: but Admiral Du Pont judged 
more wisely that, although the commands of the 
ironclad had behaved gallantly " under the most 
severe fire of heavy ordnance that had ever been de- 
livered/' 1 the monitors themselves, if the attack 
had been persisted in, would have been sunk or cap- 
tured by the enemy. 

General Hunter created Hay a volunteer aide 
1 N. & H., VH, 7*. 


without rank. "I want my Abolition record clearly 
defined," Hay wrote Nicolay, "and that will do it 
better than anything else in my mind and the minds 
of the few dozen people who know me." Ever since 
the presidential campaign of 1860, Hay had been an 
unquestioning Republican: that meant a Unionist 
without compromise. When the Southern States 
forced the war, he regarded the Secessionists as plain 
rebels; in theory either criminals, scoundrels, or mad- 
men, deserving neither charity nor quarter. As the 
war progressed, he accepted the abolition of slavery 
and Lincoln's plan of emancipation as essential to 
the restoration of peace. 

Hay's mission did not bring him into actual fight- 
ing, but it gave him a view of an army and a fleet in 
operation, and it opened his eyes to the difficulty of 
taking Charleston by sea. An interview with Admiral 
Du Pont quickly revised the impression the army 
officer had made upon him, and he wrote the Presi- 
dent that the Admiral, by refusing to persist in an 
impossible task, had saved the fleet. Lincoln, be it 
said, had not believed that the attack on Charleston 
could succeed. 

He stopped first at Hilton Head, South Carolina, 
the headquarters of General Hunter. There he found 
his brother Charles dangerously ill. 

11 The doctor said he had a slight bilious attack, 


and treated him on that supposition." John wrote 
their mother on April 23. 

11 1 was not satisfied and mentioned my ideas to the 
General, who took the responsibility of dismissing 
the physician and calling in another, a Dr. Craven, 
who seems a very accomplished man. He at once 
confirmed my suspicions and said it was a decided 
case of pneumonia. ... As soon as Craven took hold 
of him, he commenced getting better and is now 
entirely convalescent. . . . We will start for Flor- 
ida this afternoon and remain there a few days. 
The climate is cool and pleasant like the Northern 

" I never felt better in my life than I do now. I 
ride a good deal, eat in proportion and sleep enor- 
mously. I hope to weigh about a ton when I return. 

" As to our future military operations I know no- 
thing. I do not believe the General does. We have 
not force enough to take Charleston and we hear no 
talk of reinforcements. The Admiral thinks it mad- 
ness to attack again with the Ironclads. The Govern- 
ment at Washington think differently. They think 
he is to blame for giving up so soon. I do not know 
how it is to end. 

" I am not despondent, however. If we rest on our 
arms without firing another gun the rebellion will fall 
to pieces before long. They are in a state of star- 


vation from Virginia to Texas. All we have to do 
is to stand firm and have faith in the Republic, and 
no temporary repulse, no blunders even, can prevent 
our having the victory. The elections in Connecti- 
cut have frightened the Rebels and disheartened 
them more than the Charleston failure has discour- 
aged us. 

"We received Mary's letter last night, for which 

"Colonel and A.D.C." 

No doubt, Hay added his titles to his signature in 
order to give satisfaction to his family at home, 
which had every right to be proud of the patriotic 
devotion of the "Hay Boys." Their father, writing 
to one of his sisters early in the war, thus referred to 
them : 

"Our family ranks are, as you remark, somewhat 
scattered, but all I trust under the protection of a 
kind Providence, as well as the prayers of anxious 
parents. I have every reason to feel satisfied with 
the careers so far of our young family. John has ob- 
tained a position, in a social and political point of 
view, never before reached by a young man of his 
age in this generation, as the son of the celebrated 
Alexander Hamilton lately said to him. The guest 




of Cabinet Ministers [and] foreign Ambassadors, and 
occupying a position in the public mind, which 
causes a day's illness to be flashed across the Conti- 
nent as a matter in which the nation felt an interest. 
His arrival in a city noticed in the dailies as much 
as General Jackson's would have been thirty years 
ago. But enough of self-gratulation. All the family 
I have no doubt share in the pleasant reflection 
that the honor of each one is the property of the 

"Augustus, if less conspicuous, is not less able 
to act his part respectably anywhere he may be 
placed. Charles E. is just now entering upon a 
career which if the balls of rebels do not cut [it] 
short, may be as splendid as that of his elder brother. 
He is now commissioned as aide-de-camp to Maj.- 
Gen. Hunter, who is now commander in Missouri, 
an honor never conferred on so young a man, as far 
as I know, since Alexander Hamilton was made 
aide to Gen. Washington. He was packed ready to 
leave Fort Leavenworth for Santa F6 when [they 
determined] to change his destination. His officer in 
command expressed surprise that such an honor 
should be conferred on a youth of his age, but told 
him he was deserving of it. He will be in St. Louis 
in a few days to get a new rig of regimentals suited 
to his new honor/ 1 


We cannot fail to sympathize with the honest 
pride of Dr. Hay, who saw his three sons serving 
their country as a matter of course in the crisis of 
the nation's life or death. The comparison of John's 
celebrity with that of General Jackson is not only 
delightfully nai'f, but also indicates what an impres- 
sion "Old Hickory" made on the imagination of his 

As soon as his brother Charles was strong enough 
for the voyage, John took him to Florida. 

"We visited all the posts of this department in 
that State," John wrote his grandfather on May 2, 
1863, "and were gone more than a week. ... I never 
saw a more beautiful country than Florida. The 
soil is almost as rich as our prairie land. All sorts of 
fruit and grain grow with very little cultivation, and 
fish and game of every kind abound. I found there 
a good many sound Union people, though the major- 
ity are of course bitter rebels." 

To Nicolay, Hay wrote from Stone River: 

"I wish you could be down here. You would en- 
joy it beyond measure. The air is like June at noon 
and like May at morning and evening. The scenery 
is tropical. The sunsets unlike anything I ever saw 
before. They are not gorgeous like ours, but singu- 
larly quiet and solemn. The sun goes down over the 
pines through a sky like ashes of roses, and hangs 


for an instant on the horizon like a bubble of blood. 
Then there is twilight such as you dream about." 

Hay returned to Washington during the critical 
interval between Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, 
when the Confederacy, flushed by the success which 
the incompetence of Hooker presented it, was pre- 
paring its astonishing invasion of Pennsylvania. 

Months elapsed before Hay saw any direct result 
from his first trip south. Then, on December 28, 
1863, he received letters from Unionists in Florida, 
asking him to go down there and run as their Repre- 
sentative for Congress. President Lincoln, in his 
annual message on December 8, had announced his 
intentions in regard to reconstruction of the Con- 
federate States. He offered to guarantee a full par- 
don to all who had been connected with the Rebellion, 
provided they took an oath "to support, protect, 
and defend" the United States Constitution and the 
Union, and to abide by the recent legislation freeing 
the slaves. Only persons who had betrayed their 
trust by quitting offices under the United States 
Government in order to serve the Confederacy, or 
had maltreated the colored troops, were excluded 
from this amnesty. The President further promised 
that when citizens numbering a tenth of the voters 
in 1860 took this oath and established a republican 
government in any of the rebellious States, the 


United States Government would protect them from 
foreign invasion and domestic violence. 

When Hay consulted Mr. Lincoln in regard to 
the invitation from Florida, the President thought 
that this would be a good opportunity for testing 
his scheme. Accordingly, he commissioned Hay to 
start at once to Point Lookout, deliver the oath- 
books to General Marston, and then to go farther 

" I went on board a little tug at the Seventh Street 
Wharf," he writes, "and rattled and rustled through 
the ice to Alexandria, where I gofcon board the Clyde, 
most palatial of steam tugs, fitted up with a very 
pretty cabin and berths, heated by steam, and alto- 
gether sybaritic in its appointments." 

The next morning (January 3, 1864), n landing 
at Point Lookout, he was received by a pompous 
aide who led him through the bitter cold to General 
Marston's headquarters. "There stood in the atti- 
tude, in which, if Comfort were ever deified, the 
statues should be posed, parted coat-tails, a 
broad plenilunar base exposed to the grateful warmth 
of the pine-wood fire, a hearty Yankee gentle- 
man, clean-shaven, sunny and rosy, to whom 
I was presented, and who said laconically, ' Sit there ! ' 
pointing to a warm seat by a well-spread breakfast- 
table." Whilst they were eating, "the General told 


a good yam on a contraband soldier who com- 
plained of a white man abusing him: 4 I doesn't 
object to de pussonal cuffin', but he must speck de 


Hay's description of the Southerners held as pris- 
oners there throws light on the extent to which they 
were reduced. 

"The General's flock are a queer lot," he writes. 
"Dirty, ragged, yet jolly. Most of them are still 
rebellious, but many are tired and ready to quit, 
while some are actuated by a fierce desire to get out 
of the prison, and, by going into our army, avenge the 
wrongs of their forced service in the Rebel ranks. 
They are great traders. A stray onion a lucky 
treasure-trove of a piece of coal is a capital for 
extensive operations in Confederate trash. They sell 
and gamble away their names with utter reckless- 
ness. . . . They sell their names when drawn for a 
detail of work, a great prize in the monotonous life 
of every day. A smallpox patient sells his place on 
the sick-list to a friend who thinks the path to Dixie 
easier from the hospital than the camp. The traf- 
fic in names on the morning of Gen'l Butler's detail 
of five hundred for exchange was as lively as Wall 
Street on days when Taurus climbs the zenith, or 
the 'Coal Hole' when gold is tumbling ten per cent 
an hour." 


That evening General Butler came in, as described 
in the preceding chapter, and took Hay back to 

On January 13, Hay received his commission as 
Assistant Adjutant-General, and announced to the 
President that he was ready to start. Mr. Lincoln 
sent him off with a hearty, "Great good luck and 
God's blessing go with you, John!" 

At New York, he embarked on the Fulton with 
the Fifty-fourth Colored Regiment. "Variety of 
complexions," he notes; "red-heads filing into 
their places on deck singing, whistling, smoking, 
and dancing eating candy and chewing tobacco. 
Jolly little cuss, round, rosy, and half-white, sing- 


11 'Oh, John Brown, dey hung him! 

We 're gwine to jine de Union Army. 
We 're gwine to trabbel to de Souf 
To smack de Rebels in de mouf.'" 

On the iQth, a cold raw day, they passed Charles- 
ton early in the morning, and saw Fort Sumter "lit 
up by a passing waft of sunshine." Arrived at Hilton 
Head, he reported to General Gillmore, who was 
somewhat disconcerted, because he supposed that 
Hay's mission would necessitate a military opera- 
tion. Hay reassured him, and during the fortnight 
of his stay there he visited the Union works round 


On January 23, in company with Generals Gill- 
more and Terry, he "saw the scene of the crossing 
by Shaw; l crossed and went in ambulances to Wag- 
ner; spent some time there. From Gregg had a good 
view of Fort Sumter silent as the grave flag 
flying over it a great flag flying over the battery 
on Sullivan's Island. The city, too, was spread out 
before us like a map; everything very silent; a ship 
lying silent at the wharf. No sign of life in Ripley, 
Johnson or Pinckney." 2 

Ten days later the silence was broken. Hay was 
again making a tour of inspection with General 

"Just as we got in sight of Wagner a white smoke 
appeared in the clear air (the fog had lifted suddenly) 
and a sharp crack was heard. It seemed as if a ce- 
lestial pop-corn had been born in the ether. ' There 's 
a shell from Simkins,' said Turner. We went on and 
there were more of them. As we got to Wagner we 
got out and sent the ambulance to a place of safety 
under the walls. They were just making ready to 
discharge a great gun from Wagner. The Generals 
clapped hands to their ears. The gun was fired, and 
the black globe went screaming close to the ground 

1 Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, killed while leading the assault 
of his colored regiment, the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts, on Fort 
Wagner, July 18, 1863. 

1 Forts near Charleston. 


over the island, over the harbor, landing and burst- 
ing near the helpless blockade-runner stranded half- 
way from Fort Beauregard to Fort Moultrie. We 
walked up the beach." 

Hay observed acutely, not only sights but sounds. 

"The shells have singular voices," he records of 
the cannonade; "some had a regular musical note 
like Chu-chu-weechu-weechu-b r r r; and each of the 
fragments a wicked little whistle of its own. Many 
struck in the black, marshy mud behind us, burying 
themselves, and casting a malodorous shower into 
the air. Others burrowed in the sand. One struck 
the face of Chatfield, while I was standing on the 
parapet, with a heavy thud, and in a moment after- 
wards threw a cloud of sand into the air. I often saw 
in the air a shell bursting, fierce, jagged white 
lines darting out first, like javelins, then the 
flowering of the awful bud into full bloom, all 
in the dead silence of the upper air, the crack and 
whistle of the fragments. 

"Colonel Dray ton took us to see the great 300- 
pounder Parrot. At a very little distance, an ugly- 
looking hole where a shell had just burst; beside the 
gun, traces in the sand of hasty trampling and wagon- 
wheels; dark stains soaking into the sand; a poor 
fellow had just had his leg taken off by a piece of a 
shell. I saw them putting a crushed and mangled 


mass into an ambulance. He was still and pale. The 
driver started off at a merry trot. A captain said : 
*D you, drive that thing slower!' 

"We walked back on the beach to Wagner. A 
shell exploded close behind us. I made a bad dodge. 
Walked all over Wagner and got a sympathetic view 
of the whole affair." 

On February 9, Hay reached Jacksonville, from 
which point General Gillmore planned an expedi- 
tion inland. Hay addressed the Confederate prison- 
ers, explaining to them the nature of the amnesty and 
assuring them that, if they accepted it, the United 
States Government would protect them. Then he 
opened an office in the quartermaster's block, took 
out his oath-books, and waited. 

"They soon came," he says, "a dirty swarm of 
gray coats, and filed into the room, escorted by a 
negro guard. Fate had done its worst for the poor 
devils. Even a nigger guard did n't seem to excite 
a feeling of resentment. They stood for a moment in 
awkward attitudes along the wall. ... I soon found 
they had come up in good earnest to sign their names. 
They opened again a chorus of questions which I 
answered as I could. At last a big good-natured fel- 
low said, 'This question's enough. Let's take the 
oath!' They all stood up in line and held up their 
hands while I read the oath. As I concluded, the 


negro sergeant came up, saluted, and said: 'Dere's 
one dat did n't hole up his hand.' They began to 
sign, some still stuck and asked questions, some 
wrote good hands, but most bad. Nearly half made 
their mark." 

Having secured sixty names, Hay was reasonably 
well satisfied with his first day's work. That more 
than half the prisoners of war were eager to desert 
showed how the spirit of the common people was 
broken. Everybody seemed tired of the war, and 
longed for peace on any terms. The political ques- 
tions involved did not trouble them. "Some of the 
more intelligent cursed their politicians and especi- 
ally South Carolina; but most looked hopefully to 
the prospect of having a government to protect them 
after the anarchy of the few years past. There was 
little left of what might be called Loyalty. But what 
I build my hopes on," he adds, "is the evident weari- 
ness of the war and anxiety for peace." 

Though Hay abhorred the military and political 
leaders of the Rebellion, he pitied the many victims 
of their policy. Here is a vignette of a household to 
which he was introduced at Jacksonville: "I saw in 
a few moments' glance the wretched story of two 
years. A lady, well-bred and refined, dressed worse 
than a bound girl, with a dirty and ragged gown that 
did not hide her trim ankles and fine legs. A white- 


haired, heavy-eyed, slow-speaking old young man. 
A type of thousands of homes where punishment of 
giant crimes has lit on humble innocents." 

War means kaleidoscopic contrasts. At Beaufort 
on Washington's Birthday, Hay attended a ball 
managed by the young officers. When the dancing 
began, he went to the hospital ship and "saw many 
desperately wounded ; Colonel Reed mortally, clutch- 
ing at his bedclothes and passing garments; picked 
up, bed and all, and carried away, picking out his 
clothes from a pile by shoulder-straps ' Major? f 
'No! Lieutenant-Colonel!"' General Saxton was so 
shocked by Reed's appearance that he returned to 
the ball and ordered lights out in half an hour. The 
dancers grumbled, but all had the heart to eat sup- 
per. The General "came back glowing with the 
triumph of a generous action performed, and asked 
us up to his room, where we drank champagne and 
whiskey, and ate cake." 

Hay pursued his way to Fernandina, which added 
a few names to his roll ; but some of the natives " re- 
fused to sign on the ground that they were not 
'repentant Rebels/" He already realized that his 
mission was premature. The necessary ten per cent 
of loyalists could not be secured, and "to alter the 
suffrage law for a bare tithe would not give us the 
moral force we want. The people of the interior 


would be indignant against such a snap-judgment 
taken by incomers, and would be jealous and sullen." 

In order to complete his inspection, Hay went on 
to Key West, filling his Journal with pen-pictures of 
the sea and reefs and of the human derelicts. As you 
read the following passages, you might suppose that 
they were written, not by a young major on a pol- 
itico-military errand, but by a Hearn or a Loti, 
twenty years later, recording leisurely his impres- 
sions of travel. 

" March 5. . . . To-night the phosphorescent show 
is the finest I have yet seen. A broad track of glory 
follows the ship. By the sides abaft the wheels, the 
rushing waves are splendid silver, flecked here and 
there with jets of flame; while outside the silvery 
trouble, the startled fish darting from our track 
mark the blue waters with curves and splashes of 
white radiance. Occasionally across our path drifts 
a broad blotch of luminous brilliancy, a school of 
fishes brightening the populous waters. 

41 March 6. A beautiful Sunday; the purest South- 
ern day; the air cool but cherishing and kindly; the 
distant shore fringed with palms and cocoanuts; the 
sea a miracle of color; on the one hand a bright vivid 
green; on the other a deep dark blue; flaked by the 
floating shadows cast by the vagrant clouds that loaf 
in the liquid sky. 


"Leaning over the starboard rail, gazing with a 
lazy enjoyment at this scene of enchantment, at the 
fairy islands scattered like a chain of gems on the 
bosom of this transcendent sea, bathed in the emer- 
ald ripples and basking in the rosy effulgence of the 
cherishing sky; the white sails flitting through the 
quiet inlets; the soft breeze causing the sunny water 
to sparkle and the trees to wave, I thought that here 
were the Isles of the Blessed; within the magic ring 
of these happy islands the sirens were singing and 
the maids were twining their flowing hair with sprays 
of the coral. Anchored in everlasting calm, far from 
the malice of the sky, or the troubling eyes of men, 
they sported through the tranquil years of the ever- 
lasting summer, in the sacred idleness of the im- 

And having laid on his colors in this luscious 
fashion, almost to the point of cloying, Hay, with 
characteristic humor, adds: 

" My friend, Canis Marinus, begged to differ. He 
said: 'There's the Ragged Keys; full o' mud-torkles 
and rattle-snakes; them little boats is full of Conks 
come up for to sponge.'" 

Hay found Key West " bathed in the quiet ripples 
of the pale green water, whitened by the coral. So 
bright green that I cannot describe the gem-like 
shine of the distant waters. The sea-gulls that soar 


above the sea have their white breasts and inside 
wings splendidly stained with green by the reflec- 
tion of the gleaming water." As his business at the 
Key consumed little time, he devoted himself, as 
was his custom, to sight-seeing, which included, in 
this case, some of the queer inhabitants of the town. 
Except for "a very decent darky with a very decent 
buggy belonging to a v. d. Dr. S., the only blot of 
decency on the Key West escutcheon," he pro- 
nounced them "a race of thieves and a degeneration 
of vipers." 

On the voyage North, the steamer ran into a fresh 
gale. " We all stood wide-legged and anxious on the 
forecastle as men will about little things on ships, 
Joe heaving the lead, the Captain leaning to the 
breeze, his alpaca coat bagging like a seedy balloon, 
Old Reed confident and oracular, till Stringer, 
who had been hanging like a pointer dog over the 
rail, sang out ' Light ho ! 4.' This was old Bethel, 
and we at once knew where we were. We anchored 
and lay there quietly. I finished my poem, 4 North- 
ward,' begun to-day on leaving Key West." 1 

On steaming into New York, after stopping at 
Fernandina and Hilton Head, three inches of snow 
covered the deck, where " effeminate Southerners 

1 At Camp Shaw, a little while before, he wrote " Lfcse-Amour," 
one of his best love-lyrics. 


of six months' standing" shivered "like Italian 
greyhounds. " The next morning Hay reached the 
White House, and reported to the President, who 
thoroughly understood the state of affairs in Florida. 
(March 24, 1864.) l 

Mr. Lincoln evidently approved Hay's discretion, 
tact, and alertness, because he soon sent him on an- 
other mission of a different kind. 

Since the outbreak of the war, there had existed in 
the North a minority of sympathizers with the Re- 
bellion who organized a secret society, with lodges, 
ritual, and ramifications after the pattern of the 
revolutionists in Continental Europe. They called 
themselves the Knights of the Golden Circle, and 
they had several aliases, the Order of American 
Knights, the Order of the Star, and the Sons of Lib- 
erty, to use, like criminals, in case of discovery. 
They intended to undermine the Union sentiment in 
the Northern States, by enrolling as many members 
as possible, who pledged themselves, not merely not 
to support the Union cause by enlisting in it, but ac- 
tively to aid the Rebels by giving them information 
and other help. Where they safely could, they as- 
sailed the property and lives of loyal citizens. They 
collected arms and ammunition, they formed mili- 
tary bodies and drilled, and they prepared for a vast 
1 Hay summarizes his mission in N. &. H., vin, 282-85. 


exhibition of their powers when the right hour should 
strike. Till then, they worked underground. 

The Northern High Priest of the Knights was 
Clement L. Vallandigham ; the Southern head, Ster- 
ling Price, was a general in the Confederate Army. 
Vallandigham claimed that at its height the order 
numbered half a million, and though he probably 
exaggerated, the organization was large enough to 
be formidable. It flourished in Ohio, Indiana, Illi- 
nois, Kentucky, and Missouri, where its members, 
by voting in concert, might turn the scale in a close 
election. Their secrecy added tenfold to their pre- 
sumed strength. 

Late in the spring of 1864, General Rosecrans, 
commanding in Missouri, having unearthed the 
secrets of the Knights, imparted them to Governor 
Yates, of Illinois, who joined him in urging the Pres- 
ident to allow Colonel Sanderson, of Rosecrans' 
staff, to go to Washington with the evidence. Lin- 
coln, who from the first had looked upon the Knights 
with "good-humored contempt," was not inclined 
to create public alarm by sending for Sanderson. 
He suspected also that Rosecrans wished by this 
ruse to embroil the President with Secretary Stan- 
ton; and he therefore despatched Hay to St. Louis 
to ascertain what the revelations amounted to. 

On the journey, Hay "sat and wrote rhymes in 


the same compartment with a pair of whiskey smug- 
glers." He describes Rosecrans as "a fine, hearty, 
abrupt sort of talker, heavy- whiskered, blond, keen 
eyes, with light brows and lashes, head shunted for- 
ward a little; legs a little unsteady in walk." Com- 
ing to business after dinner, he offered Hay a cigar. 
"'No? Long-necked fellows like you don't need 
them. Men of my temperament derive advantage 
from them as a sedative and as a preventer of corpu- 
lence.' " Then, puffing away, and looking over his 
shoulder from time to time, as if fearing he might be 
overheard, he disclosed his discoveries about the 
"O.A.K." as the Order of American Knights was 
called for short. Detectives who had joined their 
lodges in Missouri, reported that the whole order 
was in a state of intense activity; that it had com- 
mitted many recent massacres; that it proposed to 
elect Vallandigham, then in exile in Canada, a 
delegate to the Democratic Convention in Chicago, 
and that if the Government rearrested him when he 
came, the conspirators would "unite to resist the 
officers and to protect him at all hazards." 

Having listened attentively to Rosecrans, Hay 
called on Sanderson, heard his statements, and then 
went back to finish the evening with the General. 
The discreet secretary neither made suggestions nor 
asked for a copy of Sanderson's voluminous report. 


He, too, surmised that Rosecrans wished by this 
means to " thwart and humiliate Stanton," and that 
Sanderson, naturally proud of his success as a ferret, 
would like to impress the President with his worth; 
and he suspected that they wanted money for the 
secret service fund. 

These things he duly related to Lincoln, who 
" seemed not over- well pleased that Rosecrans had 
not sent all the necessary papers" by Hay. As for 
the General's urging secrecy, the President remarked 
that a secret which had already been confided to 
the Governors of Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, and 
to their respective staffs, "could scarcely be worth 
keeping now." He thought the Northern section of 
the conspiracy a negligible quantity "a mere po- 
litical organization, with about as much of malice 
and as much of puerility as the Knights of the Golden 

Events confirmed Lincoln's view: for although 
Vallandigham returned to Ohio unmolested, and 
took a vehement part in the Democratic Convention, 
the O.A.K. kept still, and, if they exerted any in- 
fluence on the election in November, that influence 
was undeniably puerile. 

Not only downright traitors, but political oppo- 
nents of President Lincoln and peace-at-any-price 
men strutted and fretted their hour upon the stage, 

during that summer of 1864. In some respects the 
most notable of these annoying critics was Horace 
Greeley. No one disputed that his organ, the New 
York Tribune, was then the most authoritative 
newspaper in the United States. It had the widest 
circulation among farmers and rural readers, "the 
plain people" whom Lincoln regarded as the back- 
bone of the country. It was taken with equal favor 
in the counting-room and offices and in the stores 
and homes, of the large cities and towns. Scores of 
thousands of Northerners turned to it every day, not 
only for its news but for its opinions. Its editorial 
page set forth, as in a serial story, the Gospel accord- 
ing to St. Horace, which his devotees, untroubled by 
its inconsistencies, came to accept without question. 
The Tribune was what Greeley made it; the em- 
bodiment of his virtues, his defects, his prejudices. 
He shed his personality through it from the first 
column to the last, and the thousands to whom he 
appealed admired him as much in his weakness as in 
his strength. He was a New England Yankee, honest, 
shrewd, enterprising, resourceful, believing that the 
Lord helped those who helped themselves, and that, 
as he had prospered exceedingly, the Lord was on 
his side. Nature gave him the racy speech, the tart 
phrase. What he saw, he stated clearly; but this does 
not imply that he saw either far or deep. Though he 


spent all his mature life in New York City, his mind 
retained the schoolmasterish quality of his youth. 
So his person, with its ill-fitting clothes, and his face 
stamped by a countrified expression and encircled 
by flowing locks and a shaggy, diffuse throat beard, 
suggested no matter where you met him the 
rusticities of Vermont. 

For more than twenty years, Greeley had been the 
autocrat of the Tribune. When the war broke out 
the multitudinous public that had been taught by 
him in their ordinary affairs turned to him for guid- 
ance. The loose habits of reasoning, and of snap- 
judgments, which confirmed journalists seldom es- 
cape, Greeley not merely did not struggle against, 
but he cultivated. He dipped his pen of infallibility 
into his ink of omniscience with as little self-distrust 
as a child plays with matches. Conscious of the utter 
rectitude of his intentions, he found it hard not to 
suspect those who differed from him of moral crooked- 
ness. Doomed, as editors must be, to express opinion 
on insufficient evidence, he seemed at times to re- 
gard evidence in general as finical if not superfluous. 
Assuming that Abraham Lincoln, though well-mean- 
ing, was inexperienced and possessed of only a 
mediocre capacity, Greeley made it his duty to ad- 
vise him; and when his advice was not taken, he 
berated the advisee. With equal assurance he criti- 


cized the conduct of international relations by 
Seward, the financial measures of Chase, and the 
operations of every commander afloat or ashore. 
From his editorial chair in the Tribune office, it cost 
him no more effort to tell Grant or Farragut what 
to do than to discuss the pumpkin crop with an up- 
state farmer. 

A list of Greeley's misjudgments, from the days 
when he supported Douglas for the presidency and 
upheld peaceable secession, down to the summer of 
1864, when he labored frantically to stop the war, 
would serve as a warning against the deteriorating 
effects of journalism upon even a ready intellect 
and a well-developed conscience. It ought also to 
show the folly of trying to play the r61e of infallibil- 
ity without sufficient preparation. Greeley was not 
the only editor to whom this would apply; he was 
simply the most conspicuous, because the most in- 
fluential; therefore I have paused to describe him. 
Eventually, posterity may remember Horace Greeley 
only as the man who, with unusual power of scold- 
ing, harassing, irritating, with ingenuity in uncandid 
criticism, with exasperating self -righteousness and 
petulance, never succeeded in exhausting the pa- 
tience or in shaking the magnanimity of Abraham 

On July 7, 1864, Greeley wrote Lincoln that he 


had received word from a person who called him- 
self William C. Jewett, that two ambassadors of 
11 Davis & Co." were then in Canada, with full power 
to negotiate a peace, and that Jewett requested that 
either Greeley should go at once to Niagara Falls 
to confer with them, or a safe-conduct should be sent 
to take them to Washington to talk with the Presi- 
dent himself. Greeley says: 

"I venture to remind you that our bleeding, 
bankrupt, almost dying country also longs for peace; 
shudders at the prospect of fresh conscriptions, of 
further wholesale devastations, and of new rivers of 
human blood. And a widespread conviction that the 
Government and its prominent supporters are not 
anxious for peace, and do not improve proffered op- 
portunities to achieve it, is doing great harm now, 
and is morally certain, unless removed, to do far 
greater in the approaching elections." 

After further lecturing the President, Greeley sug- 
gests the following terms: 

" i. The Union is restored and declared perpetual. 
2. Slavery is utterly and forever abolished through- 
out the same. 3. A complete amnesty for all polit- 
ical offenses. 4. Payment of $400,000,000 to the 
Slave States, pro rata, for their slaves. 5. The Slave 
States to be represented in proportion to their popula- 
tion. 6. A National Convention to be called at once." 


The letter concludes quite in Greeley 's best vein : 

I 'Mr. President, I fear you do not realize how in- 
tently the people desire any peace consistent with 
the national integrity and honor, and how joyously 
they would hail its achievement and bless its authors. 
With United States stocks worth but forty cents in 
gold per dollar, and drafting about to commence 
on the third million of Union soldiers, can this be 
wondered at? I do not say that a just peace is now 
? ctainable, though I believe it to be so. But I do say 
that a frank offer by you to the insurgents, of terms 
which the impartial will say ought to be accepted, 
will, at the worst, prove an immense and sorely 
needed advantage to the National cause; it may save 
us from a Northern insurrection." 

President Lincoln was skeptical in the premises, 
but he thought it wise to put Greeley's proposal to 
the test, and accordingly he appointed Greeley him- 
self his agent to interview the negotiators. 

II If you can find any person, anywhere," the Presi- 
dent wrote on July 9, " professing to have any prop- 
osition of Jefferson Davis in writing, for peace, em- 
bracing the restoration of the Union, and abandon- 
ment of slavery, whatever else it embraces, say to 
him he may come to me with you, and that if he 
really brings such proposition he shall at least have 
safe-conduct with the paper (and without publicity, 


if he chooses) to the point where you shall have met 
him. The same if there be two or more persons." 

To this downright message Greeley replied quer- 
ulously, declaring that he had little heart in the task 
imposed upon him and that he thought the negotia- 
tors would not "open their budget" to him. Still 
hesitating, he wrote on the I3th that he had definite 
information that " two persons, 1 duly commissioned 
and empowered to negotiate for peace," were at 
that moment not far from Niagara Falls in Canada, 
and desirous of conferring with the President him- 
self or with such agents as he might designate. 

As Horace Greeley had received the President's 
terms and promise of a safe-conduct for the Confed- 
erates four days before, this note was, to say the 
least, astonishing. The President cut short the de- 
liberate vacillation by telegraphing, "I was not ex- 
pecting you to send me a letter, but to bring me a 
man or men." At the same time he despatched Ma- 
jor Hay to New York with the following letter: 

" Yours of the I3th is just received, and I am dis- 
appointed that you have not already reached here 
with those commissioners, if they would consent to 
come, on being shown my letter to you of the 9th 
inst. Show that and this to them, and if they will 

1 "Hon. Clement C. Clay, of Alabama, and Hon. Jacob Thomp- 
son, of Mississippi." 


come on the terms stated in the former, bring them. 
I not only intend a sincere effort for peace, but I 
intend that you shall be a personal witness that it is 
made." l 

This letter Hay delivered to Greeley in New York 
on the i6th. Greeley "didn't like it, evidently; 
thought that he was the worst man that could be 
taken for that purpose; that as soon as he arrived 
there [Niagara] the newspapers would be full of it; 
that he would be abused, blackguarded, etc., etc." 
Still, if the President insisted, he would go, provided 
he received an absolute safe-conduct for four per- 
sons. This Hay arranged, and Greeley agreed to be 
in Washington on Tuesday morning, the igth, with 
the negotiators, if they would come. 

"He was all along opposed to the President pro- 
posing terms," Hay adds in his Diary. "He was in 
favor of some palaver anyhow; wanted them to pro- 
pose terms which we could not accept, if no better, 
for us to go to the country on; wanted the Govern- 
ment to appear anxious for peace, and yet was 
strenuous in demanding as our ultimatum proper 

So Greeley journeyed to Niagara, petulant, un- 
easy, vaguely suspecting, perhaps, that the Presi- 
dent had turned the tables on him, and feeling some 
1 N. & H., ix, 189. 


doubts as to the authority of the agents whom he 
was going to meet. 

Arrived at Niagara, he sent word, through " Colo- 
rado" Jewett, to the representatives of " Davis & 
Co.," that he was "authorized by the President of 
the United States to tender [them] his safe-conduct 
on the journey proposed" [to Washington], and to 
accompany them at their earliest convenience. He 
omitted to state Mr. Lincoln's two conditions 
"the restoration of the Union, and abandonment of 
slavery"; perhaps the omission was intentional, be- 
cause Greeley was fixed in his purpose that the Con- 
federates should propose their terms first. He soon 
learned, however, that they lacked credentials, yet 
he failed to realize that through Jewett they had 
deceived him as to their authority. Here was a 
bizarre contradiction: the infallible editor of the 
Tribune tricked by very common adventurers, who 
now assured him that they knew the views of the 
Confederate Government and that, if they were 
given a safe-conduct to Richmond, they could eas- 
ily procure credentials. 

By this clever turn they hoped to have it appear 
to the world that Lincoln was suing the Confeder- 
ates for peace. Greeley, instead of repudiating them 
on discovering that they had duped him, tele- 
graphed to Washington the new proposal of Clay 


and Holcombe (the fourth of the schemers). In 
reply, the President wrote the following note, and 
sent it by Major Hay on the first train to Niagara: 

July 18, 1864. 

To whom it may concern: Any proposition which 
embraces the restoration of peace, the integrity of the 
whole Union, and the abandonment of slavery, and 
which comes by and with an authority that controls 
the armies now at war against the United States, 
will be received and considered by the Executive 
Government of the United States, and will be met 
by liberal terms on other substantial and collateral 
points, and the bearer or bearers thereof shall have 
safe-conduct both ways. 


This paper Major Hay handed to Greeley at the 
International Hotel, Niagara, about noon on July 
20. Greeley was "a good deal cut up at what he 
called the President's great mistake in refusing to 
enter into negotiations without conditions." He 
seemed "nettled and perplexed," possibly because 
he began to suspect that he had been too credulous. 
Hay finally persuaded Greeley to go with him to the 
Canadian side and deliver the President's letter. 

11 We got to the Clifton House," Hay records, " and 


met George N. Sanders at the door. . . . Sanders is 
a seedy-looking Rebel, with grizzled whiskers and 
a flavor of old clo\ He came up and talked a few 
commonplaces with Greeley while we stood by the 
counter. Our arrival, Greeley' s well-known person, 
created a good deal of interest, the bar-room rapidly 
filling with the curious, and the halls blooming sud- 
denly with wide-eyed and pretty women. We went 
up to Holcombe's room, where he was breakfasting 
or lunching tea and toasting, at all events. He 
was a tall, solemn, spare, false-looking man, with 
false teeth, false eyes, and false hair. 

"Mr. Greeley said: 'Major Hay has come from 
the President of the United States to deliver you a 
communication in writing and to add a verbal mes- 
sage with which he has been entrusted. 1 I handed 
him a note, and told him what the President and 
Seward had told me to say, and I added that I would 
be the bearer of anything they chose to send by me 
to Washington, or, if they chose to wait, it could go 
as well by mail. He said: ' Mr. Clay is now absent at 
St. Catherine's. I will telegraph to him at once, and 
inform you in the morning/ 

" We got up to go. He shook hands with Greeley, 
who ' hoped to see him again ' ; with me; and we went 
down to our carriage. He again accosted Greeley; 
made some remark about the fine view from the 


House, and said, ' I wanted old Bennett l to come 
up, but he was afraid to come.' Greeley answered: 
1 1 expect to be blackguarded for what I have done, 
and I am not allowed to explain. But all I have done, 
has been done under instructions.' We got in and 
rode away. As soon as the whole thing was over, 
Greeley recovered his spirits and said he was glad 
he had come, and was very chatty and agreeable 
on the way back and at dinner." 

Before taking the train, Greeley, unknown to 
Hay, had an interview with the shabby go-between, 
" Colorado" Jewett, whom "he seems to have au- 
thorized to continue to act as his representative." 
Jewett informed his accomplices at the Clifton, and 
they wrote Greeley arraigning the President for his 
breach of faith. Jewett at once gave their letter to 
the press, and its effect was just what the enemies of 
the Union desired. So far as appears, Greeley never 
informed the negotiators of Lincoln's promised safe- 
conduct. Pretending that the President's later note 
canceled the earlier, he supported the denunciation 
of the agents of " Davis & Co." 

On being himself attacked by the loyal newspa- 
pers, he threw the blame on Lincoln. There was a call 
for the correspondence, and the President, by pub- 
lishing it, could have given the Infallible One his 
1 James Gordon Bennett, editor of the New York Herald. 


quietus: but as usual he would not seek a personal 
vindication at the risk of depressing public opinion. 
He feared that it would be "a disaster equal to the 
loss of a great battle," if it were known that the au- 
tocrat of the most influential newspaper in the North 
"was ready to sacrifice everything for peace," and 
was "frantically denouncing the Government for 
refusing to surrender the contest." l 

The President, in his desire to soothe the enraged 
patriot, or at least to make him understand the 
purpose of the earlier notes, invited Greeley to go to 
Washington. This he declined in a ranting letter: 
"The cry [of the Administration]," he wrote, "has 
been steadily, No truce! No armistice! No negotia- 
tion! No mediation! Nothing but surrender at dis- 
cretion ! I never heard of such fatuity before. There 
is nothing like it in history. It must result in disaster, 
or all experience is delusive." And then, after insin- 
uating that the effort for a tolerable peace might 
have succeeded if it had been honest and sincere, Mr. 
Greeley added: "I beg you, implore you, to inaugu- 
rate or invite proposals for peace forthwith. And 
in case peace cannot now be made, consent to an 
armistice for one year, each party to retain, unmo- 
lested, all it now holds, but the Rebel ports to be 
opened. Meantime, let a national convention be 
1 N. & H., ix, 198. 


held, and there will surely be no more war at all 
events." l 

To paraphrase Greeley's own expression: in the 
history of the Rebellion there is nothing "for fatu- 
ity" like this outburst by the political sage, who 
counted more readers than any other editor in the 
United States. 

Even after Lincoln was dead, slavery abolished, 
the war ended, and the Union saved, Greeley stuck 
to his false statement with all the tenacity of the 
self-righteous when they are caught erring. 2 But 
Hay, who took part in the negotiations and had ac- 
cess to the documents, lived on to tell the truth. 8 

This mission, more important in its bearing than 
in its immediate results, was the last on which Lin- 
coln sent him. As on the earlier ones, he acquitted 
himself well was quick to see and hear, trusty in 
obeying instructions, discreet in dealing with stran- 
gers, unstartled by emergencies. 

1 N. & H., ix, 197. 

1 See his brief and disingenuous account of the transaction in his 
American Conflict (New York, 1866), n, 664-65, in which he throws 
all the blame on Lincoln. 

' N. & H., ix, chap. 8. 



FOR Hay, during those four years, the daily 
and often hourly companionship of Abraham 
Lincoln was the most important influence of all. 
His position as private secretary not only gave him 
a knowledge from the inside of military and politi- 
cal plans, and an acquaintance with thousands of 
persons whose collective motives and deeds were 
woven into the fabric of the Drama, but it enabled 
him to observe, at closest range, the working of the 
mind, and the movement of the heart and character 
of the ruler who has had no peer in the Anglo-Saxon 

John Hay has himself described, in a genial chap- 
ter, 1 the daily routine of life in the White House. 
The rush of office-seekers began on the first day of 
Lincoln's administration and continued, with slight 
fluctuations, until the last afternoon of Lincoln's life. 
Nicolay, Hay, and the others near the President 
tried to screen him from this drain on his time and 
strength ; but he would not be screened. He felt that 
as the Head of the Nation belonged to the whole peo* 
1 Century Magazine, November, 1890; XLI, 33-37. 


pie, he ought to be accessible to every one. He un- 
derstood, also, the value of hearing opinions, though 
only in a moment's talk, from every quarter, and 
he could usually get something, if it were only a 
quaint phrase, even from cranks. 

He was too shrewd a politician not to avail him- 
self of such opportunities for personal interviews as 
arose. The spoils system inevitably flourished, be- 
cause, with the coming in of a new party, offices under 
the Government, from top to bottom, were filled by 
new men. The outbreak of war created myriads of 
other posts, departmental, military, and naval. Un- 
der these conditions, fitness was not seldom over- 
looked : for Lincoln could not afford to estrange the 
influential backers of greedy place-seekers. The un- 
fathomable Irony which manifests itself everywhere 
in human affairs, seemed bent on making sport of 
Democracy when it obliged Lincoln to turn aside 
from business of incalculable importance, while Sen- 
ators urged upon him the claims of their poor rela- 
tives to the postmasterships of insignificant villages. 

But "although the continual contact with im- 
portunity which he could not satisfy, and with dis- 
tress which he could not always relieve, wore terri- 
bly upon him and made him an old man before his 
time, he would never take the necessary measures to 
defend himself," says Hay. ". . . Henry Wilson once 


remonstrated with him about it: 'You will wear 
yourself out.' He replied, with one of those smiles 
in which there was so much of sadness, 4 They don't 
want much; they get but little, and I must see 

President Lincoln rose early. In summer he spent 
the night at the Soldiers' Home where the heat was 
less intense than in the city; but by eight o'clock he 
had ridden to the White House and was at his desk. 
Long before ten o'clock, the stream of visitors poured 
in. The Cabinet met ordinarily on Tuesdays and 
Fridays. " At luncheon time," Hay writes, "he had 
literally to run the gauntlet through the crowds who 
filled the corridors between his office and the rooms 
at the West end of the house occupied by the family. 
The afternoon wore away in much the same manner 
as the morning; late in the day he usually drove for 
an hour's airing; at six o'clock he dined. He was one 
of the most abstemious of men; the pleasures of the 
table had few attractions for him. His breakfast was 
an egg and a cup of coffee; at luncheon he rarely 
took more than a biscuit and a glass of milk, a plate 
of fruit in its season ; at dinner he ate sparingly of one 
or two courses. He drank little or no wine . . . and 
never used tobacco." 1 

"That there was little gayety in the Executive 


House during his time," hardly needs to be hinted. 
The two younger boys, William and Thomas, en- 
livened it with their good-natured, unrestrained, 
and unconventional ways; but William died in less 
than a year, leaving "Tad" the only offshoot of 
young life in that somber household. Lincoln him- 
self would give free play to his humor if a few friends 
were with him; and he was apt, at any time, to 
flash out one of the racy comments, or stories with 
an application, which his hearers never forgot. 
Lincoln "read Shakespeare more than all other 
writers together," and he went occasionally to the 
theater. His favorite plays were Hamlet, Macbeth, 
and the Histories, especially Richard II. He often 
quoted from the last the amaranthine passage be- 

" Let us sit upon the ground, 
And tell sad stories of the death of Kings." 

For relaxation he turned to Thomas Hood, and to 
Artemus Ward, Nasby, and other professional jokers 
of the time. But most of his evenings he spent in his 
office, unless there was a dinner-party. 

"Upon all but two classes," Hay adds, "the 
President made the impression of unusual power as 
well as unusual goodness. He failed only in the case 
of those who judged men by a purely conventional 
standard of breeding, and upon those so poisoned 


by political hostility that the testimony of their 
own eyes and ears became untrustworthy. . . . The 
testimony of all men admitted to his intimacy is that 
he maintained, without the least effort or assump- 
tion, a singular dignity and reserve in the midst of 
his easiest conversation." 

As I have noted earlier, Lincoln's young secretaries 
came sooner than the public to appreciate his great- 
ness, and, in so far as it can be said of any one, they 
shared the confidence of that deep, patient, reticent 
nature. Lincoln discussed freely every topic except 
himself. Hay's Journal, from which many pithy 
extracts have already been made, furnishes us some 
of the most vivid flashlight pictures of Lincoln in 
personal moments or on historical occasions that 

Hay records that on January 27, 1862, the Presi- 
dent issued his General War Order, No. I . "He wrote 
it without any consultation, and read it to the Cabi- 
net, not for their sanction but for their information. 
From that time he influenced actively the opera- 
tions of the campaign. He stopped going to McClel- 
lan's and sent for the General to come to him. . . . 
His next order was issued after a consultation with 
all the Generals of the Potomac Army in which, as 
Stanton told me next morning, 'we saw ten Gen- 
erals afraid to fight/ The fighting Generals were 


McDowell, Sumner, Heintzelman and Keyes, and 
Banks. These were placed next day at the head 
of the Army Corps. So things began to look vigor- 


"Sunday morning, the Qth of March [1862], the 
news of the Merrimac's frolic came here. Stanton 
was fearfully stampeded. He said they would cap- 
ture our fleet, take Fort Monroe, be in Washington 
before night. The President thought it was a great 
bore, but blew less than Stanton. As the day went 
on, the news grew better. And at four o'clock the 
telegraph was completed, and we heard of the splen- 
did performance of the Monitor." 

Lincoln acted so simply, not only dispensing with 
the forms of command but often seeming to wait on 
advice, that it took some time for his Cabinet officers 
to understand that he was, indeed, master. Thus 
before issuing his Order No. 3, deposing McClellan, 
he purposely omitted to consult Blair, who was op- 
posed to the treatment of Fremont. Blair published 
a letter discourteous to the President, but when he 
went to explain it, Lincoln, instead of disciplining 
him, " told him he was too busy to quarrel with him," 
adding that if Blair "did n't show him the letter, he 
would probably never see it." 

Patient though he was, and charitable in finding 
excuses for the shortcomings of the generals in the 


field, Lincoln felt the reverses keenly. Witness this 
reference to him at the time of the Second Battle of 
Bull Run. 

"Everything seemed to be going well and hilari- 
ous on Saturday" (August 30, 1862), writes Hay, 
"and we went to bed expecting glad tidings at sun- 
rise. But about eight o'clock the President came to 
my room as I was dressing, and calling me out, said: 
'Well, John, we are whipped again, I am afraid. 
The enemy reinforced on Pope and drove back his 
left wing, and he has retired on Centreville, where 
he says he will be able to hold his men. I don't like 
that expression. I don't like to hear him admit that 
his men need holding.' 

"After a while, however, things began to look 
better, and people's spirits rose as the heavens 
cleared. The President was in a singularly defiant 
tone of mind. He often repeated, ' We must hurt this 
enemy before it goes away.' And this morning, 
Monday [September i], he said to me, when I made 
a remark in regard to the bad look of things: 'No, 
Mr. Hay, we must whip these people now. Pope must 
fight them; if they are too strong for him, he can 
gradually retire to these fortifications. If this be 
not so if we are really whipped, and to be whipped 
we may as well stop fighting/ " 

The North, indignant at Pope's disaster, which 


the public attributed to McClellan's lack of support, 
demanded that McClellan be cashiered. The Cabi- 
net was unanimous against him. But Lincoln would 
not be persuaded. " He has acted badly in this mat- 
ter," he said to Hay, " but we must use what tools we 
have. There is no man in the army who can man 
these fortifications and lick these troops of ours into 
shape half as well as he. Unquestionably he has 
acted badly toward Pope. He wanted him to fail. 
That is unpardonable. But he is too useful just 
now to sacrifice." 

There spoke the man of sober second thought, 
whom neither popular clamor nor personal pique 
could move. 

Under date, September 23, 1862, we have a still 
more memorable entry. "The President wrote the 
[Emancipation] Proclamation on Sunday morning, 
[September 21] carefully. He called the Cabinet 
together on Monday, September 22, made a little talk 
to them, and read the momentous document. Mr. 
Blair and Mr. Bates made objections; otherwise the 
Cabinet was unanimous. The next day Mr. Blair, 
who had promised to file his objections, sent a note 
stating that, as his objections were only to the time 
of the act, he would not file them lest they should 
be subject to misconstruction." 

News traveled with desperate slowness to those 


kept in suspense at the White House during a crisis. 
The battle of Gettysburg ended at dark on July 3, 
1863 ; and yet for more than a week following, doubt 
and hope alternated in Lincoln's mind as to whether 
the Union general would complete his victory by 
destroying Lee's army. Hay writes: 

" Saturday, July u, 1863. The President seemed 
in specially good humor to-day, as he had pretty 
good evidence that the enemy were still on the North 
side of the Potomac, and Meade had announced his 
intention of attacking them in the morning. The 
President seemed very happy in the prospect of a 
brilliant success. . . . 

"Sunday, I2th July. Rained all the afternoon. 
Have not yet heard of Meade's expected attack. 

"Monday, 13 ih. The President begins to grow 
anxious and impatient about Meade's silence. I 
thought and told him there was nothing to prevent 
the enemy from getting away by the Falling Waters 
if they were not vigorously attacked. . . . Nothing 
can save them if Meade does his duty. I doubt 
him. He is an engineer. 

11 1 4th July. This morning the President seemed 
depressed by Meade's despatches of last night. 
They were so cautiously and almost timidly worded 
talking about reconnoitring to find the enemy's 
weak places, and other such. . . . About noon came 


the despatches stating that our worst fears were true. 
The enemy had gotten away unhurt. The President 
was deeply grieved. ' We had them within our grasp, f 
he said; 4 we had only to stretch forth our hands and 
they were ours. And nothing I could say or do could 
make the army move.' 

"Several days ago he sent a despatch to Meade 
which must have cut like a scourge, but Meade re- 
turned so reasonable and earnest reply that the 
President concluded he knew best what he was doing, 
and was reconciled to the apparent inaction, which 
he hoped was merely apparent. 

"Every day he has watched the progress of the 
army with agonizing impatience, hope struggling 
with fear. He has never been easy in his own mind 
about General Meade since Meade's General Order 
in which he called on his troops to drive the invader 
from our soil. The President says: 'This is a dread- 
ful reminiscence of McClellan. The same spirit that 
moved McClellan to claim a great victory because 
Pennsylvania and Maryland were safe. The hearts 
of ten million people sunk within them when McClel- 
lan raised that shout last fall. Will our Generals 
never get that idea out of their heads? The whole 
country is our soil.' " 

" 15th July. Robert Lincoln says the President is 
silently but deeply grieved about the escape of Lee. 


He said : ' If I had gone up there I could have whipped 
them myself .'" 

And Hay adds: " I know he had that idea." 

To picture Lincoln commanding at Gettysburg, 
crushing Lee's army, and with it the Rebellion, in the 
most significant battle of the nineteenth century, 
dazzles the imagination. More than one of the Union 
generals regarded Lincoln as possessing unusual 
qualifications as a commander: but could he have 
compassed that? 

On July 1 6th: "General Wadsworth came in. He 
said in answer to Abe's question, 'Why did Lee 
escape?' 'Because nobody stopped him,' rather 
gruffly. Wadsworth says that a council of war of corps 
commanders, held on Sunday, the I2th ... on the 
question of fight or no fight, the weight of authority 
was against fighting. French, Sedgwick, Slocum, and 
Sykes strenuously opposed a fight. Meade was in 
favor of it. So was Warren, who did most of the 
talking on that side, and Pleasonton was very eager 
for it, as also was Wadsworth himself. The non- 
fighters thought, or seemed to think, that if we did 
not attack, the enemy would, and even Meade 
thought he was in for action, had no idea that the 
enemy intended to get away at once. Howard had 
little to say on the subject. 

"Meade was in favor of attacking in three col- 


umns of 20,000 men each. Wadsworth was in favor 
of doing as Stonewall Jackson did at Chancellors- 
ville, double up the left, and drive them down on 
Williamsport. I do not question that either plan 
would have succeeded. Wadsworth said to Hunter, 
who sat beside him : ' General, there are a good many 
officers of the regular army who have not yet en- 
tirely lost the West Point idea of Southern superior- 
ity. That sometimes accounts for an otherwise un- 
accountable slowness of attack/ 

"ipth July, Sunday. The President was in very 
good humor; ... in the afternoon he and I were 
talking about the position at Williamsport the other 
day. He said: 'Our army held the war in the hollow 
of their hand, and they would not close it.' Again 
he said : ' We had gone all through the labor of till- 
ing and planting an enormous crop, and when it was 
ripe we did not harvest it! Still', he added, 'I am 
very, very grateful to Meade for the great service he 
did at Gettysburg.'" 

Characteristic is this last sentence of Lincoln's 
indefectible sense of justice! 

Another characteristic trait his mercifulness 
appears in this episode: 

"To-day [July 18] we spent six hours deciding 
on Court Martials, the President, Judge Holt and 
I. I was amused at the eagerness with which the 


President caught at any fact which would justify 
him in saving the life of a condemned soldier. He 
was only merciless in cases where meanness or cruelty 
was shown. Cases of cowardice he was specially 
averse to punishing with death. He said it would 
frighten the poor fellows too terribly to shoot them. 
. . . One fellow who had deserted, and escaped, after 
conviction, into Mexico, he sentenced, saying, 'We 
will condemn him as they used to sell hogs in Indiana, 
as they run.' " 

Without extraordinary power of resilience, Lincoln 
could hardly have stood up against the disappoint- 
ments and failures of the army, combined with the 
unremitted attacks of political opponents and the 
fault-finding of nominal friends, which he had to 
endure day by day and year by year. His misunder- 
stood liking for humor was one of the signs of his 
fundamental health. In the summer of 1863, politi- 
cians were already discussing whom to elect to suc- 
ceed him as President. In his own Cabinet he had 
competitors. Yet he was neither angered by such 
disloyalty nor exasperated by the readiness of party 
leaders to throw him over. He saw the irony of being 
the victim of such a conspiracy. 

On August 7, 1863, only a month after Gettys- 
burg, Hay writes to Nicolay: 

"The Tycoon is in fine whack. I have rarely seen 


him more serene and busy. He is managing this war, 
the draft, foreign relations, and planning a recon- 
struction of the Union, all at once. I never knew with 
what a tyrannous authority he rules the Cabinet till 
now. The most important things he decides, and 
there is no cavil. I am growing more convinced that 
the good of the country absolutely demands that he 
should be kept where he is till this thing is over. 
There is no man in the country so wise, so gentle 
and so firm." 

On August 9, 1863, Hay says: " This being Sunday 
and a fine day I went down with the President to 
have his picture taken at Gardner's. He was in very 
good spirits. He thinks that the Rebel power is at 
last beginning to disintegrate; that they will break to 
pieces if we only stand firm now. Referring to the 
controversy between two factions at Richmond, one 
of whom believed still in foreign intervention, North- 
ern treason and other chimseras; and the other, the 
administration party, trusts to nothing but the 
army, he said: ' [Jefferson] Davis is right. His army 
is his only hope, not only against us, but against his 
own people. If that were crushed, the people would 
be ready to swing back to their old bearings/ " 

Hay accompanied Lincoln to inspect the statuary 
of the East pediment of the Capitol, and the Presi- 
dent, with the eye of an expert, objected to the 


statue of the Woodchopper, by Powers, "as he did 
not make a sufficiently clean cut." On two evenings 
they tried a new repeating rifle, with which "the 
President made some pretty good shots." An irre- 
pressible patriot came up and, " seeing the gun recoil 
slightly, said it would n't do; too much powder; a 
good piece of audience should n't rekyle; if it did at 
all, it should rekyle a little forrid." On another 
evening, they visited the Observatory, while "the 
President took a look at the moon and Arcturus. I 
went with him to the Soldiers' Home, and he read 
Shakespeare to me, the end of Henry V and the 
beginning of Richard III, till my heavy eyelids 
caught his considerate notice, and he sent me to 

Of Lincoln's unconventional ways these two ex- 
tracts tell: 

"The President came in last night in his shirt and 
told me of the retirement of the enemy from his 
works at Spottsylvania, and our pursuit. I compli- 
mented him on the amount of underpinning he still 
has left, and he said he weighed 180 pounds. Impor- 
tant if true." (May 14, 1864.) 

"A little after midnight as I was writing those last 
lines, the President came into the office laughing, 
with a volume of Hood's Works in his hand, to show 
Nicolay and me the little caricature, 'An Unfortu- 


nate Bee-ing ' ; seemingly utterly unconscious that he, 
with his short shirt hanging about his long legs, and 
setting out behind like the tail feathers of an enor- 
mous ostrich, was infinitely funnier than anything 
in the book he was laughing at. What a man it is! 
Occupied all day with matters of vast moment, 
deeply anxious about the fate of the greatest army 
of the world, with his own plans and future hanging 
on the events of the passing hour, he yet has such 
a wealth of simple bonhommie and good fellowship 
that he gets out of bed and perambulates the house 
in his shirt to find us, that we may share with him 
the fun of poor Hood's queer little conceits." (April 
30, 1864.) 

The late Richard Watson Gilder once said that 
amid all his trials Lincoln had one compensation 
in the White House John Hay. Incidents such as 
these confirm him. 

On September n, 1863, Hay writes to Nicolay, 
not yet returned from a trip to the Rocky Mountains: 
"You may talk as you please of the Abolition Cabal 
directing affairs from Washington; some well-mean- 
ing newspapers advise the President to keep his fin- 
gers out of the military pie and all that sort of thing. 
The truth is, if he did, the pie would be a sorry mess. 
The old man sits here and wields, like a backwoods 
Jupiter, the bolts of war and the machinery of gov- 


eminent with a hand especially steady and equally 

"His last letter l is a great thing. Some hideously 
bad rhetoric some indecorums that are infamous 
yet the whole letter takes its solid place in history as 
a great utterance of a great man. The whole Cabinet 
could not have tinkered up a letter which could have 
been compared with it. He can rake a sophism out of 
its hole better than all the trained logicians of all the 
schools. I do not know whether the nation is worthy 
of him for another term. I know the people want 
him. There is no mistaking that fact. But politi- 
cians are strong yet, and he is not their ' kind of a 
cat.' I hope God won't see fit to scourge us for our 
sins by any one of the two or three most prominent 
candidates on the ground." 

On September 23, bad news came from General 
Rosecrans, who was expected to defeat the Confed- 
erate army round Chattanooga. Hay was at the War 
Department when "they were trying to decipher an 
intricate message from Rosecrans giving reasons 
for the failure of the battle. The Secretary [Stanton] 
says : ' I know the reason well enough. Rosecrans ran 
away from his fighting men and did not stop for 
thirteen miles. . . . No, they need not shuffle it off 

1 Dated August 26, 1863, to James B. Conkling, to be read at the 
Illinois Republican Convention. N. & H., vn, 380-84. 


on McCook. He is not much of a soldier. I never 
was in favor of him for a Major-General. But he is 
not accountable for this business. He and Crittenden 
both made pretty good time away from the fight to 
Chattanooga, but Rosecrans beat them both.'" 

Then Hay hurried "out to the Soldiers' Home 
through the splendid moonlight" to ask the Presi- 
dent to attend a council at the War Department that 
night. " [I] found the President abed. I delivered 
my message to him as he dressed himself, and he was 
considerably disturbed. I assured him as far as I 
could that it meant nothing serious, but he thought 
otherwise, as it was the first time Stanton had ever 
sent for him. When we got in, however, we found a 
despatch from Rosecrans stating that he could hold 
Chattanooga against double his number; could not 
be taken until after a great battle; his stampede evi- 
dently over." 

The loyal secretary, on returning from a visit to 
New York, told the President of the evidence he 
had seen there of the conduct of Secretary Chase " in 
trying to cut under" for the Republican nomination. 
Mr. Lincoln said, " it was very bad taste, but he had 
determined to shut his eyes to all these performances ; 
that Chase made a good Secretary, and that he 
would keep him where he is: if he becomes President, 
all right! I hope we may never have a worse man. 


I have all along seen clearly his plan of strengthen- 
ing himself. Whenever he sees that an important 
matter is troubling me, if I am compelled to decide 
it in a way to give offence to a man of some influence, 
he always ranges himself in opposition to me, and 
persuades the victim that he [Chase] would have 
arranged it very differently. It was so with Gen'l 
Fremont, with Gen'l Hunter, when I annulled his 
hasty proclamation, with Gen'l Butler, when he 
was recalled from New Orleans, with the Missouri 
people, when they called the other day. I am entirely 
indifferent to his success or failure in these schemes, 
so long as he does his duty as the head of the Treas- 
ury Department." 

Magnanimity such as this has had few parallels. 
It would be unthinkable in the case of a Richelieu or 
a Frederick or a Bismarck. 

Lincoln continued to appoint, at Chase's sugges- 
tion, officials who would work in Chase's interest. 
When Hay remonstrated, "he laughed on, and said 
he was sorry the thing had begun, for though the 
matter did not annoy him, his friends insisted that it 
ought to." But by an adroit turn of the tables, the 
President, supporting Seward in the raid which the 
Senate made on him, caused the too impetuous 
Chase to resign. Chase supposed that he would 
thereby bring the President to terms. Far from it. 


"When Chase sent in his resignation," the "back- 
woods Jupiter" confided to Hay, "I saw that the 
game was in my own hands, and I put it through. 
When I had settled this important business at last 
with much labor and to my entire satisfaction, into 
my room one day walked D. D. Field and G. Op- 
dycke, and began a new attack upon me to remove 
Seward. For once in my life I rather gave my temper 

the rein, and I talked to those men pretty d d 

plainly. Opdycke may be right in being cool to me. 
I may have given him reason this morning." (Octo- 
ber 30, 1863.) 

Memorable is Hay's account of the trip to Gettys- 
burg, where President Lincoln spoke at the consecra- 
tion of the Soldiers' Cemetery. The Presidential 
party left Washington on November 18, 1863. "On 
our train were the President, Seward, Usher and 
Blair; Nicolay and myself; Mercier and Admiral 
Raymond; Bertinatti and Capt. Isotta, and Lieut. 
Martinez and C. M. Wise; W. McVeagh *; McDougal 
of Canada; and one or two others. At Baltimore, 
Schenck's staff joined us. 

"Just before we arrived at Gettysburg, the Presi- 
dent got into a little talk with McVeagh about Mis- 
souri affairs. McVeagh talked radicalism until he 
learned he was talking recklessly. . . . 
1 Wayne MacVeagh. 


"At Gettysburg the President went to Mr. Wills, 
who expected him, and our party broke up. Mo 
Veagh, young Stanton and I foraged around for a 
while walked out to the College, got a chafing 
dish of oysters, then some supper, and, finally, loaf- 
ing around to the Court House, where Lamon was 
holding a meeting of marshals, we found Forney, 1 
and went around to his place, . . . and drank a little 
whiskey with him. He had been drinking a good deal 
during the day, and was getting to feel a little ugly 
and dangerous. He was particularly bitter on Mfont- 
gomery] Blair. McVeagh was telling him that he 
pitched into the President coming up, and told him 
some truths. He said the President got a good deal 
of that, from time to time, and needed it. 

"He says, 'Hay, you are a fortunate man. You 
have kept yourself aloof from your office. I know an 
old fellow over seventy, who was Private Secretary 
to Madison. He thought there was something solemn 
and memorable in it. Hay has laughed through his 
term/ . . . 

"We went out after a while, following the music 
to hear the serenades. The President appeared at the 
door, said half a dozen words meaning nothing, and 
went in. Seward, who was staying around the corner 

1 John W. Forney, a notorious journalist in Washington and 


at Harper's, was called out, and spoke so indistinctly 
that I did not hear a word of what he was saying. 
Forney and McVeagh were still growling about 
Blair. We went back to Forney's room, having 
picked up Nicolay, and drank more whiskey. Nicolay 
sang his little song of the 'Three Thieves,' and we 
then sang 'John Brown/ At last we proposed that 
Forney should make a speech, and two or three 
started out ... to get a band to serenade him. I 
staid with him; as did Stanton and McVeagh. He 
still growled quietly, and I thought he was going to 
do something imprudent.' 1 

Then follows an account of the serenade, and of 
the bibulous Forney's speech, in which, in tipsy 
fashion, he mingled drollery and gravity. When the 
crowd greeted him with shouts, he said : " My friends, 
these are the first hearty cheers I have heard to- 
night. You gave no such cheers to your President 
down the street. Do you know what you owe to that 
great man? You owe your country you owe your 
name as American Citizens." After "very much of 
this," Hay adds, "W. McVeagh made a most touch- 
ing and beautiful spurt of five minutes, and Judge 
Stevenson of Pennsylvania spoke effectively and 
acceptably to the people. 'That speech [of For- 
ney's] must not be written out yet/ says Young. 
1 He will see further about it when he gets sober,' as 


we went upstairs. We sang 'John Brown' and went 

Quite Shakespearean is this low comedy interlude, 
coming just before the stately, dramatic scene of 
consecration. Perhaps, after all, Nature sometimes 
emulates Shakespeare. 

II In the morning," of the igth, Hay continues, " I 
got a beast and rode out with the President and 
suite to the Cemetery in procession. The procession 
formed itself in an orphanly sort of way, and moved 
out with very little help from anybody; and after a 
little delay Mr. Everett took his place on the 
stand, and Mr. Stockton made a prayer which 
thought it was an oration, and Mr. Everett spoke 
as he always does, perfectly; and the President, in a 
firm, free way, with more grace than is his wont, 
said his half-dozen lines of consecration, and the 
music wailed, and we went home through crowded 
and cheering streets. 

II 1 met Gen'l Cameron after coming in, and he, 
McVeagh and I, went down to dinner on board the 
N. C. R. R. car. I was more than usually struck by 
the intimate jovial relations that exist between men 
that hate and detest each other as cordially as do 
those Pennsylvania politicians. 1 

1 General Simon Cameron's daughter became, in 1866, the second 
wife of Wayne MacVeagh. 



"We came home the night of the ipth." 

Though brief, Hay's description of the delivery of 
the Gettysburg address serves. In the " History," 
he and Nicolay devote a dozen pages to the occasion, 
and, writing by the focused light of a quarter of a 
century, they assign to it an immediate recognition 
which very few of those who heard it were aware of. 
It was Edward Everett's monumental oration 
which he did " perfectly, as he always does " that 
carried the day. After that, Lincoln's few sentences 
seemed almost inadequate; or, at best, they came 
like the benediction, which you forget, after an 
impressive sermon, which you remember. To-day, 
however, Everett's marmoreal periods move no- 
body, while Lincoln's words of living flame bid fair 
to light and heat many generations. Emotion, not 
marble, is the medium of enduring eloquence. 

The Diary, in spite of gaps, when Hay was too 
busy to write, reflects the variety of experiences 
which came to him day by day at Lincoln's 

On November 22, 1863, he notes that " the Presi- 
dent is very anxious about Burnside." On the 24th, 
the tone changes. "To-night the President said he 
was much relieved at hearing from Foster that there 
was firing at Knoxville yesterday. He said anything 
showing that Burnside was not overwhelmed was 


cheering: Like Sallie Carter, when she heard one 
of her children squall, would say, 'There goes one of 
my young ones, not dead yet, bless the Lord!'" 

On December 10, we learn that Sumner spoke with 
great gratification of Lincoln's recent message to 
Congress. "The President repeated, what he has 
often said before, that there is no essential contest 
between loyal men on this subject, if they consider 
it reasonably. The only question is: Who con- 
stitute the State? When that is decided, the solu- 
tion of subsequent questions is easy. He says that 
he wrote in the Message originally that he considered 
the discussion as to whether a State has been at any 
time out of the Union, as vain and profitless. We 
know that they were we trust they shall be in 
the Union. It does not greatly matter whether in 
the mean time, they shall be considered to have been 
in or out. But he afterwards considered that the 4th 
Section, 4th Article of the Constitution, empowers 
him to grant protection to States in the Union, and 
it will not do ever to admit that these States have 
at any time been out. So he erased that sentence as 
possibly suggestive of evil. He preferred, he said, to 
stand firmly based on the Constitution rather than 
work in the air." 

Another turn in the whirligig of experiences! On 
December 13, 1863, Hackett, the actor, spent the 


evening at the White House, and in their talk the 
President showed "a very intimate knowledge of 
those plays of Shakespeare where Falstaff figures. 
He was particularly anxious to know why one of the 
best scenes in the play that where Falstaff and 
Prince Hal alternately assume the character of the 
King is omitted in the representation. Hackett 
says it is admirable to read, but ineffective on the 
stage." Two nights later the President took his sec- 
retaries to Ford's Theatre to see Hackett as Falstaff 
in Henry IV. He thought that Hackett misread the 
line, "mainly thrust at me," which should be 
"mainly thrust at me." Hay dissented. "The Presi- 
dent thinks the dying speech of Hotspur an unnatu- 
ral and unworthy thing and who does not?" 1 

And here is the first record of a famous saying. 
"The President to-night [December 23, 1863] had a 
dream: He was in a party of plain people, and as it 
became known who he was, they began to comment 
on his appearance. One of them said : ' He is a very 
common-looking man/ The President replied: 'The 
Lord prefers common-looking people. That is the 
reason he makes so many of them/ " 

Among other duties, it fell to Hay to act as guide 

1 Lincoln's letter of August 17, 1863, to Hackett is well known. 
In it he says: " I think nothing equals Macbeth" Also that he thinks 
the King's soliloquy in Hamlet, " Oh, my offence is rank," surpasses 
Hamlet's own, " To be or not to be." 


theoretical staff-officers very little," one of his sub- 
ordinates told Lincoln. 

Excitement over operations in the field was hardly 
more intense than over the political campaign. Lin- 
coln had been renominated by the Republicans; Mc- 
Clellan, resenting his deposition from the command 
of the Army of the Potomac, accepted the nomina- 
tion of the Democrats. With fatal propriety the plat- 
form on which he ran declared that the war had been 
a failure and that overtures for peace ought to be 
made without delay. The issue was squarely posed. 

Lincoln's friends saw dangers in every quarter. 
No doubt a large minority in the North was tired 
of war: no doubt many who had a sentimental re- 
gard for the Union thought that the emancipation 
of the slaves had been wrongly given prominence. 
Every discontented officer every disgruntled poli- 
tician every merchant whose business was bad 
every civilian who dreaded the draft the ambi- 
tious leader like Chase the party boss the 
army of unappeased office-seekers the jealous 
the vindictive all these, and everyone else with a 
greed or a grievance, would unite to defeat Lincoln. 
Thus, at least, it appeared to his foreboding lieu- 

Even Hay, who was no alarmist, felt little con- 
fidence. " There is a diseased restlessness about men 


in these times," he wrote Nicolay on August 25, 
1864, "that unfits them for the steady support of 
an administration. It seems as if there were appear- 
ing in the Republican Party the elements of disor- 
ganization that destroyed the Whigs. If the dumb 
cattle are not worthy of another term of Lincoln, 
then let the will of God be done, and the murrain of 
McClellan fall on them." 

Lincoln himself never lost his poise. Whatever his 
thoughts, his comments were humorous. He was 
charitable towards the disloyal. But he understood 
the danger: Democracy was at stake. 

How subtle were the temptations presented to 
him appears from the following note in Hay's Diary: 

"September 23, 1864. Senator Harlan thinks that 
Bennett's l support is so important, especially con- 
sidered as to its bearing on the soldier vote, that it 
would pay to offer him a foreign mission for it, and 
so told me. Forney has also had a man talking to 
the cannie Scot, who asked plumply, 'Will I be a 
welcome visitor at the White House if I support Mr. 
Lincoln? ' What a horrible question for a man to be 
able to ask! So thinks the President apparently. It 
is probable that Bennett will stay about as he is, 
thoroughly neutral, balancing carefully until the 
October elections, and will then declare for the side 

1 Senator James Harlan; J. G. Bennett, of the New York Herald. 


which he thinks will win. It is better in many respects 
to let him alone." 

The October elections went far to relieve anxiety. 
The President, with Hay, heard the returns at the 
War Department. Early news from Indiana and 
Ohio was cheering, but that from Pennsylvania was 
11 streaked with lean." "The President in a lull of 
despatches took from his pocket the Nasby papers, 
and read several chapters of the experiences of the 
saint and martyr, Petroleum V. They were im- 
mensely amusing. Stanton and Dana l enjoyed them 
scarcely less than the President, who read on, con 
amore, until nine o'clock." Reports from the hospi- 
tals and camps showed wide differences of opinion 
among the voters. The Ohio troops voted about ten 
to one for Union, but "Carver Hospital, by which 
Stanton and Lincoln pass every day, on their way 
to the country," gave the heaviest opposition vote 
about one out of three. Lincoln said, "That's 
hard on us, Stanton, they know us better than the 

The Presidential election took place on Novem- 
ber 8. Throughout the day, Hay reports, the White 
House was still and almost deserted. The President 
said to him : " It is a little singular that I, who am not 
a vindictive man, should have always been before 
1 Charles A. Dana, Assistant Secretary of War. 


the people for election in canvasses marked for their 
bitterness: always but once. When I came to Con- 
gress it was a quiet time. But always, besides that, 
the contests in which I have been prominent have 
been marked with great rancor." 

That evening they spent at the War Department. 
From the first, the returns were most encouraging 
and Lincoln's good humor added to the gayety of 
the company. When somebody (Eckert) came in 
"very disreputably muddy," the Tycoon was re- 
minded of a story. " 'For such an awkward fellow,' 
he said, ' I am pretty sure-footed. It used to take a 
pretty dexterous man to throw me. I remember, the 
evening of the day in 1858, that decided the contest 
for the Senate between Mr. Douglas and myself, was 
something like this, dark, rainy, and gloomy. I 
had been reading the returns and had ascertained 
that we had lost the legislature, and started to go 
home. The path had been worn hog-b acked, and was 
slippery. My foot slipped from under me, knocked 
the other one out of the way, but I recovered my- 
self and lit square; and I said to myself: " It's a slip 
and not a fall: 9 "' 

When Fox, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, said 
that retribution had overtaken Hale and Winter 
Davis, "two fellows that have been specially malig- 
nant to us," Lincoln replied: "'You have more of 


that feeling of personal resentment than I. Perhaps I 
may have too little of it, but I never thought it paid. 
A man has not time to spend half his life in quarrels. 
If any man ceases to attack me, I never remember 
the past against him.' " 

"Towards midnight," Hay adds, in his memo- 
randum of this historic occasion, "we had supper. 
The President went awkwardly and hospitably to 
work shovelling out the fried oysters. He was most 
agreeable and genial all the evening. . . . Capt. 
Thomas came up with a band about half -past two, 
and made some music. The President answered from 
the window with rather unusual dignity and effect, 
and we came home." 

At the Cabinet meeting on the nth, "The Presi- 
dent took a paper from out his desk, and said : ' Gen- 
tlemen, do you remember last summer I asked you all 
to sign your names to the back of a paper, of which I 
did not show you the inside? This is it. Now, Mr. 
Hay, see if you can get this open without tearing 
it.' He had pasted it up in so singular style that it 
required some cutting to get it open. He then read 
as follows: 

" 'WASHINGTON, Aug. 23, 1864. 

11 'This morning, as for some days past, it seems 
exceedingly probable that this Administration will 


not be re-elected. Then it will be my duty to so 
co-operate with the President elect as to save the 
Union between the election and the inauguration; 
as he will have secured his election on such ground 
that he cannot possibly save it afterwards. 1 

"'A. LINCOLN/ " 

Lincoln went on to say, as I have quoted in an 
earlier chapter, that he had resolved, if McClellan 
were elected, to talk matters over with him. 2 

"The speeches of the President at the last two 
serenades are very highly spoken of," Hay continues. 
11 The first I wrote after the fact, to prevent the 
'loyal Pennsylvanians' getting a swing at it them- 
selves. The second one, last night, the President 
himself wrote late in the evening, and read it from 
the window. 'Not very graceful,' he said; 'but I am 
growing old enough not to care much for the manner 
of doing things.' " 

On November 12, 1864, Hay, with a large party, 
went down to Grant's headquarters at City Point. 
They found him occupying a little wall-tent. "At 
our first knock he came to the door. He looked 
neater and more careful in his dress than usual; his 

1 This paper was indorsed: "William H. Seward, W. P. Fessen- 
den, Edwin M. Stanton, Gideon Welles, Edw. Bates, M. Blair, J. 
P. Usher." 

See ante, pp. 133, 134. 


hair was combed, his coat on, and his shirt clean, 
his long boots blackened till they shone." He thought 
that the Rebels were "about at the end of their 
tether; that Lee and Early had received their final re- 
inforcements"; that the negro troops are admirable 
in many respects, but "that an army of them could 
[not] have stood the week's pounding at the Wilder- 
ness or Spottsylvania as our men did; 'in fact, no 
other troops in the world could have done it.' " Grant 
was "deeply impressed with the vast importance 
and significance of the late Presidential election." 
The orderliness of it "proves our worthiness of free 
institutions, and our capability of preserving them 
without running into anarchy or despotism." 

During the ensuing months we have only sparse 
records of Hay's life. In March, Secretary Seward, 
without solicitation and to his surprise, appointed 
him Secretary of Legation at Paris. " It is a pleasant 
and honorable way of leaving my present post, which 
I should have left in any event very soon," he writes 
his brother Charles. " I am thoroughly sick of cer- 
tain aspects of life here, which you will understand 
without my putting them on paper, and I was almost 
ready, after taking a few months' active service in 
the field, to go back to Warsaw and try to give the 
Vineyard experiment a fair trial. . . . The President 
requested me to stay with him a month or so longer 


to get him started with the reorganized office, which 
I shall do, and shall sail probably in June. ... I 
very much fear that all my friends will disapprove 
this step of mine, but if they knew all that in- 
duced me to it they would coincide." (March 31, 

A fortnight after Hay sent this letter, his life at 
the White House and his association with the Great 
Companion came to a tragic end. 

On Good Friday, April 14, 1865, President and 
Mrs. Lincoln, accompanied by Miss Harris and 
Major Henry R. Rathbone, went to Ford's Theatre 
to see Our American Cousin. At about ten o'clock 
John Wilkes Booth crept to the door of their box, 
opened it, leveled a pistol at the back of the Pre- 
sident's head, and fired point-blank. Mr. Lincoln 
never spoke again. They carried him unconscious to 
the house across the street No. 453 Tenth Street 
and laid him on a "bed in a small room at the 
rear of the hall, on the ground floor." 

In a few moments Washington was alarmed, 
stunned. "A crowd of people rushed instinctively to 
the White House and, bursting through the doors, 
shouted the dreadful news to Robert Lincoln and 
Major Hay, who sat gossiping in an upper room. . . . 
They ran downstairs. Finding a carriage at the 
door, they entered it and drove to Tenth Street." 


Before they crossed the threshold of the house they 
were prepared for the worst. 

Hay watched near the head of the President's bed 
throughout the night. Gradually the slow and regu- 
lar breathing grew fainter, and the " automatic moan- 
ing" ceased. "A look of unspeakable peace came 
upon his worn features. At twenty-two minutes after 
seven he died. Stanton broke the silence by saying, 
'Now he belongs to the ages/" l 
1 N. & H., x, 292. 



HAY was twenty-seven years old when the Civil 
War ended, bequeathing to him the memory 
of an astonishing experience which had called into 
play all his talents except the literary. In knowledge 
of the world, in acquaintance with men, in trial by 
the most daunting modern forms of ordeal, he had 
little to learn. He had kept his head and his temper, 
and his capacity to take adverse fate ironically, al- 
most blithely. But except to the professional soldier, 
war offers no permanent career; and the war, which 
ripened Hay, left him with his fortune still unmade. 

To have been Lincoln's private secretary during 
four years was privilege enough for one lifetime, but 
the recollection of it would neither feed nor clothe 
him; and Hay, with a constitutional inability to 
make money, found himself almost as poor when he 
quitted Washington in 1865 as when he went there 
with Lincoln in 1861. A few parcels of unprofitable 
land in Florida and an undeveloped vineyard in War- 
saw represented the savings from his meager salary. 
Gladly, therefore, he accepted the post of Secretary 
of Legation at Paris, which promised him an imme- 


diate living wage and a much needed change of 
scene. Perhaps it might lead to something better. 

Having visited his home, he reached Paris early 
in the summer. Nicolay went also, to serve as Ameri- 
can Consul there. "Mr. Nicolay is an intelligent, 
honorable man, with a bilious temperament," wrote 
Thurlow Weed, the Republican boss of New York 
State, to John Bigelow, who was in charge of the 
American Legation. " I think you will like him. Hay 
is a bright, gifted young man, with agreeable man- 
ners and refined tastes. I don't believe he has been 
spoiled, though he has been much exposed. If he 
remains the modest young man he was, I am sure 
you will like him." That was the time when tem- 
peraments were classified as bilious, sanguine, nerv- 
ous, or phlegmatic, and Weed would doubtless have 
defined Hay as sanguine. 

John Bigelow, the American Minister, had served 
during nearly Lincoln's entire administration, and 
upon him had fallen the task of preventing the Em- 
peror Napoleon III from openly supporting the cause 
of the Confederate States. Next to Charles Francis 
Adams in London, whose work in helping to preserve 
the Union can never be overestimated, Bigelow was 
the most valiant defender abroad of the American 
Republic. A vigorous writer, a scholar, a man of the 
world whose courtliness suggested the traditions of 


the Saint-Germain Quarter, he combined also in 
rare measure dignity and democratic downrightness. 

Hay reached his post in June, 1865. For Mr. 
Bigelow he soon felt an affectionate admiration, 
which never slackened through life, while Mrs. Bige- 
low's inexhaustible vivacity now amused and now 
fascinated him. " Mon Dieul qu'elle est vive, qu'elle 
est vive!" he records in his Diary, quoting "Old 
Plon," whom I take to be Prince Napoleon " Plon- 

The conclusion of the American Civil War left 
France and the United States face to face over an 
international question of grave menace. The French 
Emperor, taking advantage of the American up- 
heaval, had sent an army to Mexico, conquered a 
part of that discord-ridden country, established an 
empire there under French protection and given the 
imperial crown to Archduke Maximilian, brother of 
the Austrian Emperor, Francis Joseph. Napoleon's 
purpose could not be misunderstood. He intended, 
if the American Republic were split into two separate 
and mutually hostile nations, that French influence 
should not stop at the Rio Grande. 

One of the first acts of the Government at Wash- 
ington after the Union had been saved, was to serve 
notice on the French Emperor that he must with- 
draw his army from Mexico ; and while the American 


troops were massed in great numbers on the Mexican 
frontier to give point to this notice, it fell to Mr. 
Bigelow at Paris to carry on the diplomatic nego- 
tiations between the two governments. The Mexican 
difficulty was, indeed, the chief official business at 
the American Legation during John Hay's stay in 
Paris; but although he watched it intently from the 
inside, we cannot suppose that he shaped the course 
of events. After discharging his duties as secre- 
tary, he chiefly occupied himself with social life. His 
happy gift of riveting acquaintances, his quick inter- 
est in all sorts of persons and things, and his deter- 
mination to make himself proficient in that Book of 
Paris which has fascinated the world since the days of 
Louis the Fourteenth, secured to him constant en- 
tertainment. He perfected himself in speaking 
French; he visited the art galleries, the theaters, the 
opera; and he found time to write poetry. 

From 1865 to 1868 the Paris of the Second Empire 
stood at its zenith, surpassing in fashion and luxury 
its own earlier brilliant days. To observers who 
looked below the surface it seemed milliner-made, 
and even the soldiers, who were always on parade 
and lent color to every function, seemed soldiers in 
uniform only. But Napoleon III, the center from 
which all splendors radiated, was still the acknowl- 
edged arbiter of Europe, although there were al- 


ready doubters who whispered that he too would 
collapse at the first shock with reality. He had lost 
prestige in Syria and in Italy, and now the United 
States blocked his ambitions in Mexico. Jesuit-led 
Clericals claimed greater and greater privileges from 
him, while the mutterings of Republicans from their 
hiding-places penetrated even to his study in the 
Tuileries. Never a keen reader of character, he set 
down Bismarck, who visited him at Biarritz, as "a 
not-serious man" Bismarck the terrible, in whose 
brain was already matured the plan to Prussianize 
Germany and to fix German despotism upon Europe, 
after having bled France and any others who op- 
posed him white. 

Hay, fresh from the four years' struggle which had 
determined that Democracy should not perish from 
the earth in America, fostered the dream, dear to 
many persons at the time, that a Golden Age of Free- 
dom was about to dawn. Even in England men pre- 
dicted that the Republic would come after Queen 
Victoria's death, if not before; and that on the Conti- 
nent, as soon as the French autocrat could be curbed, 
the unification of Italy would be completed and that 
of Germany achieved. Then the peoples of Europe, 
united at last according to the principle of national- 
ity, would be peace-loving and peace-keeping, lib- 
eral in their political methods, and bound together 


by a sense of mutual interdependence and of com- 
mon ideals. 

Towards Napoleon HI, the despot who prevented 
the immediate realization of this dream, Hay felt 
aversion mingled with scorn, for he half suspected 
that the Emperor was more than half a charlatan. 

Being not only a diplomat but a discreet diplo- 
mat, he kept his opinions to himself. In private, 
however, he gave vent to them in poems which he 
did not publish until after his return from France. 
These poems are interesting, not only because they 
have their place in Hay's literary development, but 
also because they show us his innermost convictions 
at this time. 

The first, "Sunrise in the Place de la Concorde," 
he wrote in August, 1865, shortly after his arrival 
in Paris, and whilst the views or prepossessions con- 
cerning Napoleon III which he had brought with 
him from America were still fresh. It opens with a 
description apparently slight and yet vivid. 

I stand at the break of day 
In the Champs Elyses. 
The tremulous shafts of dawning 
As they shoot o'er the Tuileries early, 
Strike Luxor's cold gray spire, 
And wild in the light of the morning 
With their marble manes on fire 
Ramp the white Horses of Marly. 


But the Place of Concord 

Dead hushed 'neath the ashy skies. 

And the Cities sit in council 

With sleep in their wide stone eyes. 

I see the mystic plain 

Where the army of spectres slain 

In the Emperor's life-long war 

March on with unsounding tread 

To trumpets whose voice is dead. 

Their spectral chief still leads them, 

The ghostly flash of his sword 

Like a comet through mist shines far, 

And the noiseless host is poured, 

For the gendarme never heeds them, 

Up the long dim road where thundered 

The army of Italy onward 

Through the great pale Arch of the Star! 

And then the poet goes on to describe earlier scenes 
which the Place de la Concorde witnessed. 

There is one that seems a King, 
As if the ghost of a Crown 
Still shadowed his jail-bleached hair; 
I can hear the guillotine ring, 
As its regicide note rang there, 
When he laid his tired life down 
And grew brave in his last despair. 

Other figures rise in his imagination: Madame 

Who weeps at leaving a world 
Of love and revel and sin. . . . 
For life was wicked and sweet 
With kings at her small white feet! 


and Marie Antoinette, "every inch a Queen, " 

Whose blood baptized the place, 
In the days of madness and fear, 
Her shade has never a peer 
In majesty and grace. 

And so on to the glorious promise of 1848: 

As Freedom with eyes aglow 

Smiled glad through her childbirth pain, 

How was the mother to know 

That her woe and travail were vain? 

A smirking servant smiled 

When she gave him her child to keep; 

Did she know he would strangle the child 

As it lay in his arms asleep? 

The treasure of 'Forty-Eight 
A lurking jail-bird stole, 
She can but watch and wait 
As the swift sure seasons roll. 

And when in God's good hour 
Comes the time of the brave and true, 
Freedom again shall rise 
With a blaze in her awful eyes 
That shall wither this robber-power 
As the sun now dries the dew. 

In another poem, "The Sphinx of the Tuileries,' 
Hay speaks even more scornfully 

Of the Charlatan whom the Frenchmen loathe 
And the Cockneys all admire. 


Afraid to fight and afraid to fly, 

He cowers in an abject shiver; 
The people will come to their own at last, 

God is not mocked forever. 

These and similar indictments of the Third Na- 
poleon the young diplomat confided, temporarily, 
to his portfolio. By inheritance and choice he loathed 
despotism; and when he found it personified in a 
man whose resource was craft and not strength, his 
loathing was doubled. He believed so heartily that 
Democracy could cure political evils of every degree 
of malignity, that he underestimated the advantage 
which the element of readiness gave to the partisans 
of Reaction, solidaire, and propped by their ^stand- 
ing armies and their churches. 

Whatever the Poet's convictions, however, the 
Secretary of Legation seemed not to know of them. 
He mixed with Imperialists as smoothly as with every 
one else, and although he may have abhorred their 
principles, he found his instinct for refinement enjoy- 
ing the elegance of the Imperial Court. "One tor- 
ment of diplomatic life," he writes, " is that you never 
know the names of these agreeable fellows," the 
imperial Chamberlains. "They lose all identity in 
their violet coats and Imperial moustaches. You do 
not hear their names when you are presented to 
them, and if you look upon the official list of the 


officers of the Emperor's household you only find 
that you may take your choice of a dozen names 
for the man you are looking after." 

Among Hay's notes is a report of a conversation he 
had on September 25, 1866, with the Reverend Dr. 
Smith, Professor of Dogmatic Theology in Propa- 
ganda Fide College at Rome. That was the interval 
when the Pope's Temporal Power was being bol- 
stered up, somewhat unsteadily, by a French garri- 
son. ' ' I got one idea, ' ' Hay says, ' ' which was definite 
enough, to wit, the absolute uncertainty in which 
the Roman politicians are as to the future. The 
Professor declared that "the Pope is really not fixed 
in any plan. It seems now certain that the French 
will withdraw in December. Then, what will happen, 
remains to be seen. If the enemies of the Temporal 
Power are willing to allow him to exercise the sov- 
ereignty over the little patch of earth around the 
Eternal City, he can still retain his position and 
prestige in the Catholic World. If, on the contrary, 
he is made the object of violent attack from without, 
he will retire from Rome." 

The Professor admitted that there were many 
revolutionists in the city, but he added that both 
they, and the Pope's friends, were "too weak, too 
destitute of enterprise to accomplish anything. . . . 
The only thing to be feared is the flood swelling in 


from Italy and submerging Rome. But, I asked, is 
it considered impossible, among reasonable men 
around the Pope, to treat with the King of Italy and 
to obtain from him the protection he would doubt- 
less gladly accord? The Doctor shook his head and 
said slowly, ' I do not see how it can be done. There 
are some compromises which would destroy the very 
essence of the principle in question. These cannot 
be made. Such compromises are different from 
merely accepting the logic of events/" 

The Doctor further related that several years be- 
fore, when the Curia was much perturbed, Pius IX 
said to Lord Odo Russell, the English Envoy: '"I 
suppose, if I am driven out of Rome, you will let 
me come to Malta, would you not?'" Lord Odo 
consulted the British Foreign Secretary, 1 his uncle, 
who "immediately answered that whenever his 
Holiness desired it an English man-of-war would be 
at his service at Civita Vecchia to take him to Malta. 
This despatch still exists, and Dr. Smith says it is 
the only document that has passed between the two 
governments on the subject." 

That the Catholic Pope should turn in private 
for protection to the Protestant power which he re- 
viled in public, is among the humors of that decade of 

1 Lord John Russell. 


When Hay referred to the hope of the Catholics 
in America to see the Pope among them, the Doctor 
said "the matter had sometimes been thought of, 
but that it seemed impracticable; as the Pope should 
occupy a more central position in reference to Chris- 

"The Emperor never was the meekest of men," 
Hay records in another place, "but his temper is 
sour this autumn [1866] as the disappointed vintage 
of Burgundy . . . just before going to Biarritz. . . . 
[he] went to see the Palais de 1'Exposition. He seemed 
to be very bilious. On coming in sight of the Champ 
de Mars, he said: 'Call that a palace! Looks like 
a gasometer!' When he came to the high, closed 
fence, surrounding the park, he says: 'What does 
this mean? Tear it down! The people have a right 
to see the building/ They explained, and he com- 
promised by tearing holes in the fence at intervals. 
On each side of the North entrance were neat brick 
structures for the officers of the Exposition. Here his 
bile boiled over. ' Otez moi fa! What the Devil do 
you spoil the view so for? Tear them down!' And 
this week you see workmen demolishing with pick 
and shovel what they built laboriously last week 
with chisel and trowel." 

In contrast to this glimpse of Napoleon in peevish 
mood, is Hay's description of an Imperial reception 


at the Tuileries. In November, 1866, Mr. Bigelow 
was succeeded as Minister by General John A. Dix, 
former Secretary of the Treasury, who, when 
Secession became active, telegraphed to New Orleans, 
" If any one attempts to haul down the American 
flag, shoot him on the spot." Soon after his arrival 
in Paris, Marquis de Moustier, the Imperial Grand 
Master of Ceremonies, informed him that the Em- 
peror would receive him on Sunday, December 23, 
at two o'clock. 

" I hired a carriage and two servants, in the Rue 
Boissy d'Anglas, for Hoffman l and myself," writes 
Hay. "It was a highly respectable looking affair, 
not fresh enough to look hired, with a couple of 
solemn flunkies that seemed to have been in the 
family for at least a generation. We went to the 
General's [Dix] and in a few moments came in the 
Baron de Lajus. He said he was very much crowded 
to-day with besogne, that he had five Ministers to 
bring to the Palace, and that therefore we would 
please excuse his hurry. Upon which we all rose 
and went to the door, where we found a court car- 
riage, the Imperial arms blazing on the panels and 
the harness, drawn by four horses and accompanied 
by two mounted outriders. Everything covered with 
tawdry, tarnished gold lace. It seemed like the 
1 Under secretary at the Legation. 


Triumphal Car in a flourishing circus. Into this 
vehicle mounted the General and the Chamberlain, 
Hoffman and I following in our sham-private remise; 
and we had all the honors of a stare from the badauds 
on the asphalt of the Champs Elysfees as the party 
lumbered down to the Tuileries. We were all in our 
Army uniform. 

"Arrived there, we were shown to a warm, cheery 
ante-room, with a superb wood fire and a fine view 
of the Tuileries gardens, the Avenue and the Arch 
of Triumph." "We waited some time, while other 
dignitaries gathered the Colombian Minister; 
Fane, the British Minister ad interim; the long, 
gaunt Bavarian, Perger de Paglas and his secretary, 
who seemed moved by rusty springs " ; a "thin, wiry, 
blue-blooded Brazilian; a Peruvian; and some more." 
Then some of the "violet people" moved the party 
into a larger saloon. They "were presented to the 
Due de Cambac6r&s, a jaunty old gentleman, lean 
and shaven and wigged long also. He bowed lav- 
ishly and seemed distressed that nobody would sit 
down." Then Mr. Bigelow was called for, and "he 
entered the next room where the blaze of the Im- 
perial Presence dazzled us through the opening door. 
His audience of leave was soon over. 

"Gen'l Dix, followed by me and Hoffman, was 
then ushered into The Presence. The General 


looked anxiously around for the Emperor, advancing 
undecidedly, until a little man, who was standing 
in front of the Throne, stepped forward to meet 
him. Everybody bowed profoundly as the Due 
de Cambac6rs gave the name and the title of the 
General. The little man bowed, and the General, 
beginning to recognize in him a dim likeness to the 
Emperor's portrait, made his speech to him." 

Here follows a characteristic digression. " I looked 
around the room for a moment," Hay continues, 
"admiring as I always do on ceremonial occasions in 
France the rich and tasteful masses of color which 
the various groups of Great Officers of the Crown 
so artistically present. Not a man's place is left to 
accident. A cardinal dashes in a great splash of 
scarlet. A cent-garde supplies an exquisite blue and 
gold. The yellow and the greens are furnished by the 
representatives of Law and Legislation, and the Mas- 
ters of Ceremonies fill up with an unobtrusive violet. 
Yet these rich lights and soft shadows are accessory 
to the central point of the picture the little man 
who is listening or seeming to listen to the General's 
address. If our Republican eyes can stand such a 
dazzling show, let us look at him. 

"Short and stocky, he moves with a queer, side- 
long gait, like a gouty crab; a man so wooden looking 
that you would expect his voice to come rasping out 


like a watchman's rattle. A complexion like crude 
tallow marked for Death, whenever Death wants 
him to be taken sometime in half an hour, or left, 
neglected by the Skeleton King for years, perhaps, 
if properly coddled. The moustache and imperial 
which the world knows, but ragged and bristly, con- 
cealing the mouth entirely, is moving a little nerv- 
ously as the lips twitch. Eyes sleepily watchful 
furtive stealthy, rather ignoble; like servants 
looking out of dirty windows and saying ' nobody at 
home,' and lying as they say it. And withal a won- 
derful phlegm. He stands there as still and impas- 
sive as if carved in oak for a ship's figurehead. He 
looks not unlike one of those rude inartistic statues. 
His legs are too short his body too long. He never 
looks well but on a throne or on a horse, as kings 

In all his writing, Hay never did better than that. 
As a historical portrait in the gallery of nineteenth- 
century celebrities, it will take its place. If it seems 
malign, its malignity may be compared with the acid 
which bites in the etching. 

Hay goes on to tell how General Dix, raising his 
voice and grown a little oratorical, closes his speech 
and hands the Emperor his sealed letter of credence. 
The Emperor gives it to the Due de Bassano, who 
stands at his right. The Emperor's "face breaks up 



with ungainly movements of the moustache and the 
eyelids. You can imagine it a sort of wooden clock 
preparing to strike. When he speaks you are sure 
of your theory. His voice is wooden; it is not so 
strong and full as a year ago. He speaks rather 
rapidly and not distinctly. He slurs half his words, 
as rapid writers do half their letters. He makes his 
set speech, which, with the General's, will appear to- 
morrow in the Moniteur, and then comes sidling up 
and says (smilingly, he evidently thinks, but the 
machinery of smiles at the corners of his mouth is 
apparently out of repair), 'You expect many of your 
countrymen in Paris this year? 1 

"'A great many, doubtless/ 

"'There will be a regiment of your milice?' 

"'There has been some talk of it, etc., etc., but 
your Majesty will not expect them to compare with 
your veterans.' 

" ' But you have shown that it does not take long 
to make good troops."' 

After further gracious trivialities, Hay and Hoff- 
man were presented to the Emperor, who, "clearly 
wishing to be very civil, as it is most rare that a 
monarch addresses a Secretary of Legation, said, 
'But you are very young to be Col-o-nel. Did you 
make the war in America? 1 

"I wanted to insist that older and wickeder men 


than I were responsible for that crime, but I thought 
best to answer the intention rather than the gram- 
mar, and said I had had an humble part in the war. 

" ' Infanterie or cavalerie? ' 

"'The general staff!' 

'"And you? 1 he said, turning to Hoffman, and 
received the same answer. We bowed and backed 
out of the Presence." 

Upon leaving the Emperor, the party was taken 
to the Empress Eug6nie. 

"She was charmingly dressed in a lilac walking 
dress with an almost invisible bonnet," says the ob- 
servant Hay. "She had doubtless been to church 
like a good, pious lady, as she is, and received after- 
wards in her promenade costume. Time has dealt 
very gently with her. [Eugenie was born May 5, 
1826.] She is still full of those sweet, winning fascina- 
tions that won her a crown. There are few partisans 
so bitter as not to be moved by her exquisite man- 
ner. Even the little stories at which men smile, her 
subjection to priests, her hanging up over old Ba- 
ciocchi's deathbed the holy rag from the baby linen 
of John Baptist, which extorted from the tormented 
old sinner his last grim smile, her vestal lamp in the 
Church of Our Lady of Victories, and all that mum- 
mery is not unfeminine, and people do not care to 
be bitter about it. 


"To the General she was charming. She talked 
about the President [Johnson] and his trip to 
Chicago (which the General explained was purely 
a personal visit of friendship to the tomb of a 
friend! ! !). When we were presented, she made the 
identical remark made by the Emperor, 'You are 
young to be Colonel? ' People after a dozen years of 
intercourse get the same ideas and ways of looking 
at things. She asked if the grade of Colonel was the 
same in our army as in the French. She spoke Eng- 
lish with a charming Castilian accent, which is in- 
finitely prettier than the French. She is so winning 
and so lovely that one feels a little guilty in not be- 
ing able in conscience to wish her eternal power for 
herself, her heirs and assigns. 

"So we left the gracious blonde Spaniard and 
passed down through the avenue of flunkies to the 
door where our own sham flunkies received us and 
drove us to the Rue de Presbourg. The ceremony 
is concluded by giving to the Chief Piqueur a present 
of 250 francs." 

With the resignation of John Bigelow and the 
coming of General Dix, Hay's term as Secretary of 
Legation expired. The new Minister wished to have 
his own subordinates; and, according to the hap- 
hazard diplomatic practice of the American Govern- 
ment, even the most important posts, instead of being 


guarded by permanent officials who knew the bus- 
iness traditions and ceremonial, were from time to 
time swept clean of experts and handed over to a 
new batch of novices. 

As this was the well-understood procedure, Hay 
did not complain. " I am going home, as the papers 
have stated, in a strange paroxysm of truthfulness,' 1 
he wrote to his friend Albert Rhodes in December, 
1866. " I leave the service of the ungrateful Republic 
in a week or two more. 

Vain pomps and glories of this world I hate ye. (Shakes.) 

I shall try to find a place behind some respectable 
counter. I do not care what I sell candles or 
stocks so that profits shall accrue. I shall pull off 
my coat and roll up my sleeves, but I don't believe 
Jordan will be so hard a road to travel as it is cracked 
up to be. ... I am falling into the sere, the yellow 

Before Hay quitted Paris, he had a final view of the 
Emperor, at the Diplomatic Reception on January 
I, 1867. Ever since the New Year's Day eight years 
before, when Napoleon's remark to the Austrian 
Ambassador was construed as a hint of impending 
war, that annual occasion had caused some trepida- 
tion to European politicians. Hay's description of 
one of the last of these ceremonies, sketched with 


his characteristic vividness, has more than fleeting 

"Instead of admitting the Diplomats by a door 
nearest the Salle du Trone," he writes, "they al- 
ways manage to drag them through a long series 
of salons crowded with footmen of portentous calf 
development and Chamberlains in purple; to strike 
the imaginations of outside barbarians. We were 
pressed on as usual through these blazing hedges of 
tinsel to the Reception Room. A good deal of inter- 
est was taken in the General Dix, who was one of 
the newest arrivals, and whose venerable and gentle- 
manlike appearance produced a most favorable im- 
pression. At the order of the bustling Chamberlains 
we took our places, the United States by a queer 
chance finding itself between the two American Em- 
pires, Mexico and Brazil, Almonte having been 
presented just before and the Brazilian just after 
Gen'l Dix. The Brazilian Minister presented Dix to 
Almonte, the General thinking that much could be 
sacrificed to courtesy, and they began to recall an 
old Washington acquaintance, when the door opened 
and the usher shouted ' L'Empereur* Every one 
bowed with various degrees of abject servility. 

11 The Emperor came woodenly in. He was dressed 
in his usual uniform of General of Division. The 
Prince Imperial, a nice, slender child, with pleasant, 


sad eyes like his mother, came in with his august sire 
for the first time. The Emperor only begins to asso- 
ciate him with great public ceremonies. He was 
dressed in black velvet coat and short, full breeches, 
with red stockings the broad cordon of the Legion 
of Honor over his shoulders and across his little 
chest. He walked beside his father, bowing when 
we bowed, and stopping, a little fidgetty, while the 
Sphynx walked with the wise men of the world. 

"But, on entering, the Emperor paused, bowed, 
and took position; the Pope's Nuncio, Mgr. Chigi, 
made the usual formal speech of congratulation, to 
which the Emperor replied with his best wishes for 
the perpetuity of thrones and the prosperity of 
peoples, and his hopes that the Exposition would 
bring the millennium this year. He evidently had 
his brain full of the vast results that are to accrue 
to him from that unsightly structure in the Champ 
de Mars. He then went around the circle, speaking 
a word to most of the Ministers. I stood next to 
Almonte and waited with great interest to see how 
they met. 

"The Emperor came rolling up to the Mexican 
and stopped. Both bowed. Almonte seemed rather 
ill at ease. The Emperor held him a moment with 
his dead eyes half shut. He then said in a manner 
which was carefully cold and insolent, l Les choses 


sont bien compliqu&es Id-basI 9 The poor devil, who 
doubtless feels himself lost by his advocacy of the 
Imperial cause in Mexico, had no reply to this inso- 
lent remark from his angry and ungrateful tempter. 
The Emperor bowed, the Prince Imperial bowed, 
and Almonte bowed. I did not dare to look at him. 
"I looked at the Emperor instead, who came to 
Gen'l Dix and was very gracious speaking French 
this time asked the General where he lived and 
said it was a beau quartier the General said yes, 
thanks to His Majesty and His Majesty pulled the 
corners of his mouth into a sort of smile and bowed 
to the General and bowed to me and passed to Brazil 
and put a malicious little question to Brazil about 
its war and then walked almost hastily past the 
small Powers pausing an instant with Fane (who 
was below us, having been presented five minutes 
later the day we were) then passed out; and we 
loafed down to the door and waited in the uncom- 
fortable entry for our carriages, till we were blue and 
ill-natured. Then made calls on the necessary nobs 
by writing our names in a book at their door, and at 
last went home and took off our livery and were glad 
it was over." 

Before the end of that month of January, John 
Hay was on his way home. His year and a half in 


Paris had made him what he had instinctively 
yearned to be since boyhood a cosmopolite. His 
life at Washington had given him a knowledge of 
all sorts of Americans in war-time; at Paris, the 
world capital, he saw society in Imperial form, 
elegant, luxurious, cynical, sophisticated, but he 
also saw, behind the "blazing hedges of tinsel," the 
unlovely machinery of despotism. So he came home 
a man of the world, but an unalloyed American whom 
the seductions of an Empire only left a more zealous 
believer in a Republic. 



HAY reached New York on February i, 1867, 
spent the day and evening with some of his 
cronies, and took the Owl Train for Washington. 
" Met on the cars a lame darkey in trouble, and paid 
his fare to Washington." The Diary during the suc- 
ceeding weeks throws many side-lights on life at the 
Capital at an interesting moment. 

The conflict between President Andrew Johnson 
and Congress was becoming angry. The Radical 
Republicans had begun to push the fighting to the 
point where a trial for impeachment could not be 
avoided. The Reconstruction of the Southern States, 
lately in rebellion, called out the worst passions of 
extremists of both sides, who would not learn that 
rancor can never do the work of justice, much less 
of generosity, in cementing a peace. 

Many of the Republicans believed that, unless the 
vanquished Southerners were sternly watched, they 
would foment insurrection, and so denature, if they 
did not actually nullify, the results attained by the 
Civil War. Others supposed that they had the best 
of warrants for making the way of the transgressor 


as hard as possible. The desire to atone for the 
immemorial persecution of the Black Man by sud- 
denly proclaiming him the political equal of the White 
Man, and even by setting him up to rule over the 
White Man, moved many zealots. The politicians, 
as usual, traded on the enthusiasm of the unwise, or 
availed themselves of the scoundrel's last refuge 

To the immense misfortune of the country, and to 
his own, President Johnson had neither the tempera- 
ment, training, nor tact to meet such a crisis. His- 
tory has justified many of his measures, and has 
applauded his resistance to the fire-eaters who cried 
for vengeance on the stricken Rebels; but his op- 
ponents saw nothing but ill-masked craft or patent 
treachery in his acts, and his friends felt no loyalty 
to his person. Never was the patience of Lincoln, 
never were his fairness and spirit of conciliation, so 
sorely needed. For lack of him the wounds of war 
did not cicatrize and the process of Reconstruction 
became an ignoble tragedy, long drawn out. 

" I drove to Willard's," Hay writes; "saw the 
same dead beats hanging around the office, the same 
listless loafers moving gloomily up and down, pen- 
sively expectorating. Several shook hands with me 
cordially; the Radical fellows wanting to sympathize 
with me as a martyr and a little disappointed when 


they found I was none. Lamon picked me up and 
I went to his office; saw Judge [Jeremiah S.J Black 
and talked politics for a while. The terrible defeats 
of the past year have sobered and toned down the 
Conservatives. They talk very quietly and very 

Then he drove to the State Department. Secre- 
tary Seward " came swinging in, saying, 'Well, John 
Hay, so you got tired of it and came home.' 'Yes,' 
I said, 'it was time. I had enough of the place and 
the place had enough of me.' 

"He then went into a long and very clever dis- 
quisition on the dangers of a man holding office 
the desiccation and fossilizing process illustrating 
it by Mr. Hunter and saying he feared Nicolay was 
getting into that way. I assured him Nicolay was 
not; that he was single-heartedly pursuing 10,000 
dollars, and that when he got it he would come home 
and go to his ranch. He was glad to hear that, he 

11 He talked of the Motley business, which was new. 
He explained his letter to Motley, which to me 
needed no explanation; being the same as he sent 
to Nicolay, and which Nicolay and I thought was 
meant to call out a denial simply of the charges made 
against him. The Copperheads and Democrats who 
now form almost the entire support of the President, 


are continually boring him for offices and accusing 
Mr. Seward of wickedly keeping in their places the 
old Radical Lincoln appointees. They make charges 
against these, and Mr. Seward sends them notifica- 
tions thereof. Everybody but Motley has considered 
them as kindly intended, and answered them in that 


Since Motley's recall from Vienna directly shaped 
John Hay's career, and is often referred to in his 
Journal, we may describe it briefly. It caused a 
fuming scandal at the time, added to popular in- 
dignation against President Johnson, disturbed Se- 
ward 's friends, and cut deeply into the proud nature 
of Motley himself. 

A nondescript person named George W. Mc- 
Crackin, of New York, wrote from Paris to Presi- 
dent Johnson complaining that the American diplo- 
matists abroad were disloyal to the Administration. 
He charged that Motley not only did not pretend to 
conceal his disgust at the President's " whole con- 
duct," but despised American democracy and pro- 
claimed "loudly that an English nobleman" was 
" the model of human perfection." "There is not in 
all Europe," McCrackin added, "a more thorough 
flunkey or a more im- American functionary." Per- 
haps McCrackin hankered after a diplomatic posi- 
tion, for he noted enviously that Massachusetts 


monopolized the lion's share of the consulates; per- 
haps Mrs. Motley, never having heard of Mrs. 
McCrackin (if that lady existed), neglected to invite 
her to tea ; perhaps McCrackin was simply an austere 
patriot of the Catonic variety let us give him 
the benefit of the doubt. 

President Johnson, already at odds with his party 
and with Congress, and irritated by the popular in- 
sinuations against his own integrity, handed Mc- 
Crackin's letter to Seward, and bade him to send 
formal inquiries to the diplomats arraigned by 
McCrackin as to their attitude. Seward supposed 
that Motley would make light as he himself did 
of the random accuser. Motley, however, was 
thoroughly incensed, and instead of sleeping over 
the matter, he hurried off a long disavowal of the 
charges, and closed by handing in his resignation. 
When Seward received this, he replied that, of 
course, the resignation could not be accepted; but 
on giving the President the summary of Motley's 
letter, Johnson said, "with a not unnatural asperity, 
'Well, let him go/ " So Seward had to recall his des- 
patch by cable, and Motley resigned. After hearing 
Seward's story, Hay wrote to Nicolay: "He [Mot- 
ley] becomes a high-priced martyr and has the sure 
thing on a first-class mission two years hence. It is 
hard for Seward to save Lincoln's friends from being 


pushed off their stools by hungry Copperheads; he 
defends them when he can." 

In the Diary there follows the rest of Seward's 
conversation on February 2, which illuminates both 
Seward himself and the situation as he saw it. 

"He told me Frederick Seward had gone to St. 
Domingo to buy a harbor and bay for a naval station 
for the United States. Not having heard a word since 
they sailed Admiral Porter and he he was a 
little anxious about him. 

"He talked a great deal of the present position 
of politics and of his own attitude. He never seemed 
to me to better advantage. His utter calmness and 
cheerfulness, whether natural or assumed, is most 
admirable. He seems not only free from any polit- 
ical wish or aspiration, but says distinctly that he 
cares nothing for the judgment of history, so that he 
does his work well here. 

41 He speaks utterly without bitterness of the oppo- 
sition to him and the President. He thinks the issue 
before the country was not fairly put, but seems 
rather to admire the cleverness with which the Rad- 
ical leaders obscured and mis-stated the question to 
carry the elections. He says the elections in short 
amount to this: 

" Congress to the North. Do you want rebels to rule 
the Government? No. 


11 Do you want more representation than the 
South? Yes. 

11 Do you want negroes to vote in the South and 
not in the North? Yes. 

11 Do you want to give up the fruits of victory to 
the South? No. 

11 Congress to the South. Do you want your negroes 
to vote, and not Northern negroes? No. 

" Do you want to lose fifty members of Congress? 


" Do you want to be deprived of a vote yourselves? 

Not by a damned sight. 

"And so the issue is clearly presented in such a 
style as to decide the question beforehand. 

"He asked me if I wanted anything if I would 
like to go back to Europe. I said I would like any- 
thing worth having, if it could be given to me with- 
out any embarrassment to him or the President at 
the present time." 

Hay spent the evening with his old friend, Harry 
Wise, who, he records, "is disgusted with Johnson. 
His first words to me were, ' Everything is changed 

you find us all Copperheads/ Painter said, 'You 
will find the home of virtue has become the haunt of 
vice.' [Henry] Adams said, 'A man asked me the 
other day if I had been at the White House lately, 
and I told him No. I want to remember that house 


as Lincoln left it. 9 Every one I met used some such 
expression. It is startling to see how utterly with- 
out friends the President is." 

On Sunday, Hay "went to church alone. Walked 
home with Miss L. and listened a half hour to her 
clever Washington gossip the most spiritual in 
the world. Then made several visits; saw Hooper 1 
and Agassiz." 

Hay dined with Secretary Seward at four o'clock 
an hour commended to the attention of epicures. 
Doolittle 2 and Thurlow Weed came in. Their talk 
was on populations, ancient and modern, Weed hav- 
ing most to say about Rome and Italy, and Seward 
about the East, Babylon and Palestine. "His pic- 
tures of the desolation of those countries, which once 
nourished [their] millions, and where now a rat 
would starve, were very graphic." 

"He suddenly said to me: 'And now, John Hay, 
if it were not that Weed is continually in the way, 
I would make you a Minister. But it seems Mr. 
Harris 8 is a very good man and has been defeated, 
and the President is fond of him and so a mission 
must be kept for him. There is a vacancy in Sweden, 
and I suppose Weed will insist on Harris having it/ 

1 Samuel Hooper, member of Congress from Massachusetts. 
James R. Doolittle, Senator from Wisconsin. 
1 Ira Harris, Senator from New York. 


" ' Would Harris take such small change? ' I asked. 

"Here Weed, who had not much relished Se- 
ward' s badinage, broke out, ' It is too good for him. 
He would take anything. He deserves nothing.' 

"This led to some conversation on Cowan's 1 
chances. They all thought them rather slim. Seward 
said it ought to be known in justice to Cowan that 
he had asked for nothing and knew nothing of the 
appointment until it came to the Senate. Doolittle 
said he would try to persuade Sumner to report upon 
the nomination without a recommendation and let 
the Senate act upon it in that way. 

"Seward asked Doolittle if he had any influence left 
in the Committee on Foreign Relations? 'Scarcely 
any/ said Doolittle. 'If there were anybody there 
you could depend on,' said Seward, ' I would like to 
have mischievous and annoying questions about our 
foreign policy prevented. When a private negotia- 
tion is begun and not finished, a blast of publicity 
destroys it; there is nothing more to be done. The 
attention and jealousy of the world outside is at- 
tracted to us and obstacles spring up in an hour. I 
have an understanding with Banks and have always 
had such a one with Sumner, until he has of late be- 
come hopelessly alienated. Conness * is especially 

1 Senator Edgar Cowan of Pennsylvania nominated as Minister to 
Austria, but not confirmed. 
' John ConnesB, Senator from California. 


troublesome. I could manage him by giving him 

all the offices in the Department, but he is so greedy 

and unreasonable that one cannot talk sensibly with 


Thurlow Weed having left for New York just 
after dinner, Doolittle and Seward canvassed the 
situation. The former "thought the public temper 
was calming a little. Seward agreed with him 
thought every day was a day gained for the cause 
of reason. Doolittle said Wade l was very ambitious 
for the place of President of the Senate, that he 
had great strength; but that Fessenden 2 was begin- 
ning to be spoken of; that Fessenden evidently de- 
sired to be elected which was a little unexpected, 
as Fessenden had never for a moment occupied the 
chair, but had always avoided taking it. The same is 
true of Wade. 

"Seward said that Morgan 8 had called upon him 
that afternoon and had said the same thing of Fes- 
senden. Seward told him he was for Fessenden; 
though that would probably injure Fessenden's 
chances if it were known; that Fessenden was by 
nature and habit of mind a safe and reasonable man; 
1 though he has more temper than I, for I have none; 
he would bend and make concessions for the sake of 

1 Benjamin F. Wade, Senator from Ohio. 
1 William P. Fessenden, Senator from Maine. 
1 Edwin D. Morgan, Senator from New York. 


retaining his power to do good, which I could never 
do. I am satisfied that Fessenden wants that place 
for the good he can do and the harm he can pre- 
vent.' " 

Here Hay interjects an interesting comment: 
4 'The whipped-out, stunned way of talking that I 
have seen in all the Conservatives, is very remark- 
able. No bitterness, no energetic denunciation, no 
threats; but a bewildered sort of incapacity to 
comprehend the earnest deviltry of the other side, 
characterizes them all but Seward, who is the 
same placid, philosophic optimist that he always 
was, the truest and most single-hearted Republican 

''As [Doolittle] rose to go, Seward said, 'You 
must somehow help me to do something for John 
Hay.' I was touched and astonished at this kind 
persistence of the Secretary in my favor. 

" I staid an hour or so. He told me that it seemed 
as if they would prove General Dix to have been in re- 
ceipt of the two salaries of the Minister and Naval 
Officer [of the port of New York]. He seemed much 
disgusted at this. He said, ' It almost makes me de- 
termined never to give up a prejudice again/ He 
ran over General Dix's history, showing how consist- 
ently the General had always pursued his bread and 
butter in every conjuncture, always getting on pretty 


well, but always losing the great prizes of his ambi- 
tion by an unlucky lack of political principle and an 
over-greed of office, in every period of party crisis. He 
had always been opposed to him, but had taken him 
up and stood by him since the beginning of the War, 
in spite of the General's attempt to 'cut under' from 
time to time. Seward got him into Buchanan's 
Cabinet through Stanton. When Bigelow's place [at 
Paris] fell vacant by his resignation last July, Seward 
kept it for Dix. And now it seems he is to fall by 
this ignoble charge of avarice. 

11 We had some comforting optimist talk. I believe 
so utterly in Republicanism that I am never troubled 
long about the future. Baron Gerolt came in and we 
talked Napoleon and Bismarck and fusil d aiguille.' 9 

This last reference reminds us how recent the 
mounting of Prussia, and of Germany dominated by 
Prussia, has been. In 1867 the world was beginning 
to perceive that, by the crushing of Austria at 
Sadowa the year before, a power of the first order 
had come to the front. Men were already specu- 
lating as to the time of the inevitable contest be- 
tween France and Prussia for mastery, and as to 
the relative merits of the French chassepot and the 
Prussian needle-gun. 

The investigation of General Dix's alleged draw- 
ing of two salaries, which the Senate made a pretext 


for harassing him, resulted in his favor. Meanwhile, 
Hay was directly affected because Seward seems to 
have intimated that he would send him to Paris as 
ChargS d } Affaires, in case Dix were forced to resign. 
Hay enlivened the days of waiting by making the 
rounds of official and social life, in each of which he 
was welcome. 

"I went to see Charles Eames found there 
Ashton and Chandler. Eames was unusually ses- 
quipedalian over the Motley correspondence de- 
nounced Seward's letter as one 'from which every 
element of tolerableness had been carefully elimi- 
nated ' ; and the Treasury men came in with the same 
style of thing, till I got loud and oratorical also." 

On "one of God's own days" he joined Mrs. 
Sprague and Miss Hoyt, "doing a constitutional," 
and "walked with them in the blessed sunshine 
and shopped and rode in street cars (they paying, 
for I found the Fenians at Willard's had stolen all 
my money, which, like an idiot, I had left lying on 
my table. The curse of Donneraile be on them!) 
They took me in the afternoon to the President's 
to make a bow to Mrs. Patterson and Mrs. Stover. 
The [White] House is much more richly and carefully 
furnished than in my time. But the visitors were 
not quite up to the old mark, which itself was not 
hard to reach." 


Another morning Hay went to Congress, and sent 
his card in to his old Springfield acquaintance, 
Shelby M. Cullom. "[He] brought me in on the 
floor, where I staid an hour or two and shook many 
hands. Everybody said something about the better 
days gone and nobody spoke of the better days com- 
ing. Yet in those better days they mourned, a mil- 
lion fine fellows were slaying each other with swords 
and guns, and the widows and the orphans were in- 
creasing faster than the babies." 

On February 6 Mr. Seward told Hay that he had 
appointed him a temporary employ^ in the Depart- 
ment of State, to act, for the present, as Seward's 
private secretary; but Hay declined, knowing how 
quickly the men who were caught in the treadmill 
of routine ceased to be thought of as within reach 
of an independent career. He told Mr. Seward that 
"if he wished my personal services in the Depart- 
ment that of course they were entirely at his serv- 
ice; but that if he had done this out of his own usual 
kindness for me, that I thought best to decline; that 
I had better go home and see my parents for the 
present. He agreed with me and left me perfectly 
free to do as I liked, saying the place in the Depart- 
ment was open whenever I wanted it. He said he 
had proposed my name to the President the day 
before as Minister to Sweden. The President said 


he had another man for it General [Joseph J.] 
Bartlett, of New York. We are doing all we can for 
the soldiers, you know, etc. He said the matter was 
strictly confidential as yet. 

"I told him I had business proposals under con- 
sideration they were not what I wanted but would 
probably support me and give me in time a compe- 
tence. He said he had no doubt that a good position 
in business was worth very much more to me than 
any appointment I could hold under the Govern- 
ment. I agreed, but said that, after being Minister, 
I could make better arrangements. He said he 
would not forget me. I thanked him for all his good- 
ness and took leave. 

"Now the real reason I declined this thing was, 
I believe, a motive I did not suspect or acknowledge 
to myself: the note and telegram I had received the 
night before. I went to Mrs. Sprague's and she had 
slept on it and said no. So I determined to stay here 
till after Monday anyhow." 

To what the "note and telegram" referred, I have 
no clue: presumably, to some business offer, about 
which Hay had asked Mrs. Sprague's advice. 

The Diary now introduces us to a personage who 
has been often mentioned in the White House Jour- 
nal Charles Sumner, the senior Senator from 


"I dined with Sumner. The party was Mr. and 
Mrs. Sumner, 1 who looks very sweet and matronly 
in her secondes noces. Miss H., Mr. Field * of Phila- 
delphia, George Wm. Curtis and myself. I like Sum- 
ner better since his marriage. He should have been 
married long ago. Every man should who can afford 
it. His ready-made family is very taking. Little 
Bel H. came running in for dessert and rated Curtis 
soundly for not giving her the largest bonbon. It 
was quite startling to see Sumner in the bosom of 
his family. 

"The conversation was entirely political. The 
debate of the day in the Senate. Sherman's speech 
against including Cabinet Ministers in the Tenure of 
Office bill was rather severely criticized by Sumner, 
who thought he had been too magnanimous in allow- 
ing it to pass unanswered. Sumner thought the 
power of appointing and removing members of the 
Cabinet more properly belonged to the Senate as a 
permanent body than to the President. He said the 
Senate was less liable to become depraved and bad 
than the President. He said, 'for instance, I can 
scarcely imagine a Senate that would now confirm 
Mr. Seward.' 

"As to the argument in favor of harmony in the 

1 Mrs. Sumner was the young widow of Samuel Hooper's son. 
John W. Field. 


Cabinet, he scouted that altogether. He said that in 
every constitutional government in the world the 
head of the Government was frequently obliged to 
accept ministers that were personally and politically 
obnoxious. That it was the duty often of a patri- 
otic Minister to remain in the counsels of a perverted 
administration as a 'privileged spy/ He referred to 
Stanton and said it should be made impossible for 
Johnson to remove him. 

" In all this ingenious and really clever and learned 
talk of Sumner's, I could but remark the blindness of 
an honest, earnest man, who is so intent upon what 
he thinks right and necessary that he closes his eyes 
to the fatal consequences of such a course in differ- 
ent circumstances and different times. The Senate 
is now a bulwark against the evil schemes of the 
President; therefore, he would give the Senate a 
power which might make it the most detestable en- 
gine of anarchy or oppression. Had this law that he 
now demands existed in 1861, the Rebellion would 
have had its seat and center in Washington, and 
loyalty would have worn the bloody color of Revo- 
lution. I told him so, but he would not see it, saying 
if the South had taken that course they would by 
that act have abnegated their rebellion which to 
me seems absurd. 

"Gen'l Dix was discussed. Curtis favored letting 


him slide for his two years. Field thought the ' hoary 
old place-hunter should be marked and punished/ 
Sumner treated with contempt the charge of cumu- 
lation against Gen'l Dix. His crime of presiding at 
the Philadelphia Convention l is capital. How can 
the Senate reject the small fry of renegade Union- 
ists and permit to go unscathed the man who gave 
to that wicked scheme all its momentary respecta- 

4 ' Sumner 's account of the rejection of McGinnis a 
was very amusing. 'The Senate's answer to Master 
Seward.' He said Bartlett had come in in McGinnis 1 
place. 'He is an old-fashioned Copperhead did 
good service in our war, they say, but that won't 
save him.'" ("Bartlett was at last confirmed," 
Hay adds in the margin.) 

11 February 7, Thursday. Went to the House. The 
bill for the military government of the Rebel States 
was up. Brandegee ' made a little flourish of the 
eagle with a long Latin quotation that made the 
Western members grin. Banks 4 I talked with some 
time. He was really despondent about the course 
things were taking deprecating most earnestly 

1 A convention of "conservative" Republicans, held in August, 

f George F. McGinnis, rejected by the Senate as Minister to Sweden. 
1 Augustus Brandegee, member of Congress from Connecticut. 
4 N. P. Banks, member from Massachusetts. 


this abdication of the civil power in favor of the 
irresponsible military. I thought the case was not 
hopeless bad as it was as Congress could at any 
time resume the powers it now delegates for a tem- 
porary purpose. He said the people would more 
likely acquiesce in a bad thing done than work for 
its repeal. I talked with Boutwell 1 five minutes 
afterwards. He was confident that the measure was 
a good one and that the Army could be trusted. I 
think there never was an army that could be trusted, 
as an army. It is un-Anglo-Saxon to perpetuate 
this state of things. I recognize the miserable situa- 
tion of the South, and perhaps this bill is necessary 
but it is a bad thing to do for all that. Woe be to 
him by whom this offence cometh." 

In theevening, after calling on Seward, who showed 
him a superb set of Chinese chessmen, Hay went 
to a reception at the White House. 

"The President was very cordial to me: said I 
must come and see him. Mrs. Johnson received for 
the first time; a quiet, invalid old lady. The crowd 
not choice, but as good an average as ever; scarcely 
any distinguished people and none squalid. We used 
to have plenty of both." 

Following Seward's advice, Hay went to see 

1 George S. Boutwell, of Massachusetts, one of the Republican 

264 J HN HAY 

Browning, 1 who was very cordial and promised at 
once. "He feels very gloomy," notes the diarist. 
"Thinks we are going to the devil. He is a brighter 
man and older man than I, but I know we are not." 

Febrtiary 8. "Dined with the Hoopers. There 
heard of Banks' unexpected and dramatic heading 
off of Overseer Thad 2 in the House. Enormously 
clever man is Banks. Too moderate and wise just 
now a doomed Girondin, I am afraid. Raymond 8 
is as clever, but not as good and strong. 

"Doolittle said the other night to Seward that 
Banks had told him a few days before that he saw 
no earthly power that could prevent the impeach- 
ment of the President. This impressed Doolittle 
very much, as he said, Banks being himself against 
impeachment. Seward said that it would impress 
him more if it was not that he remembered that 
Banks had thought there was no salvation out of 
Knownothingism when in fact there was none 
in it. 

1 4 Went to Secretary Welles's reception. Sheridan 4 
was the lion, looking, as Miss Hooper says, as if he 

1 Orville H. Browning, Secretary of the Interior, the department 
before which the Southern land claims which Hay held would come. 

2 Thaddeus Stevens, of Pennsylvania, fire-eater, leader of the Re- 
publicans in the House. 

1 Henry J. Raymond, M. C. from New York, editor of the New 
York Times. 
4 General Philip H. Sheridan. 


would blow up on short provocation. A mounted 
torpedo, somebody once called him inflammable 
little Jack of Clubs to whom be all praise. Then 
a German Cotillon at Reverdy Johnson's l very 
ill led by a booby . . . , who danced in a straddling 
sort of way, ' wide between the legs as if he had gyves 

on/ 11 

11 February g. Went up to the House again. Talked 
with C. 2 about the affair of the day before. Saw 
another instance of the curious intolerance of the 
majority, and the feebleness of individual judgment 
when opposed to the decisions of the caucus. C. was 
heartily for Banks and his motion, and was full of 
delighted admiration of the way he carried it against 
Stevens but acknowledged he had voted the other 
way. He says Boutwell is jealous of Banks and anx- 
ious to discredit him before the people of Massa- 
chusetts. I got the end of Boutwell's speech, which 
was very fine and nervous. Boutwell always shows 
to good advantage when thoroughly roused and 
excited. Raymond talked a little clever and fluent 
as ever, and impressing nobody. 

"In the evening there was a German Cotillon 
at Baron Gerolt's. Kasserow led, and very well. I 
danced with Miss Haggerty. Invitations were for 
65, being Saturday. People accepted and went early. 

1 Senator from Maryland. * Presumably Cullom. 


We dispersed to bed at midnight with a queer sense 
of its being the next morning. 

" Sunday, February 10. At breakfast, Drake De- 
kay handed me Nasby's last letter about the legal 
lynching of a negro in Kentucky. The wit and satire 
of Locke l was growing so earnest and savage that it 
is painful to read him. This article is as pathetic as 
it is grotesque. 

"I told Sumner what I conscientiously believe, 
that Seward has done all in his power to save Mr. 
Lincoln's appointees from being displaced by the 
Copperhead pressure; that he had spoken of giving 
a place to me without demanding or suggesting any 
adhesion to the present administration as the con- 
dition of the appointment. 

"I asked Sumner if he did not intend to write a 
history of these times. He answered in a way to 
convince me that he had thought a great deal of the 
matter. He greatly regretted the absence of jottings 
to fix in his mind the incidents of his daily intercourse 
with the President, the Ministers of Government and 
the leading Congressmen. He considers himself the 
most highly qualified man in America to write an 
exhaustive political history of this great period, on 
account of his great and unusual facilities of inter- 

1 D. R. Locke, political satirist, who wrote over the pseudonym 
of " Petroleum V. Naaby." 


course with every bwnch of government and opinion. 
He said ' it was impossible to do anything of the kind 
so long as he remained in the Senate.' I suggested 
that he might find the necessary leisure in the rep- 
resentation of the country for a few years in Eu- 
rope. This suggestion was by no means novel to 

11 He told me that several months ago, when he 
spoke to Seward about the Harvey l matter, Seward 
had said that every Minister in Europe was with the 
President as against Congress. He said he did not 
answer, as he might have done, that he had at that 
moment in his pocket a letter from Motley and one 
from Hale disproving that assertion. 

"Sumner has grown very arrogant with success. 
He feels keenly the satisfaction of being able to bind 
and loose at his free will and pleasure. There is no 
selfish exultation in it, or too little for him to recog- 
nize it is rather the fierce joy of a prophet over 
the destruction of the enemies of his Lord. He speaks 
with hearty enjoyment of what is to happen to 
Cowan; referred to Doolittle's 'sleek, purring at- 
tempt ' to soften him in that matter so far as to have 
Cowan's name referred to the Senate without rec- 
ommendation and his snort of rejection." 

Hay, as we have seen, interspersed his political 
1 James E. Harvey, Minister to Portugal. 


conferences with fashionable engagements. His life 
in Paris had made him more than ever at his ease 
in society. He was always a favorite with women. 

14 February n. Mrs. Sprague gave a beautiful ball. 
The ladies who danced the Cotillon, and many who 
did not, had their hair powdered d la marquise. I 
have never seen so beautiful and picturesque a room- 
ful. Some of the most striking were the Hostess 
herself (with whom I danced), the Hoyts, Miss 
Romain Goddard, Miss Haggerty, and Mrs. Banks, 
who was very correctly dressed, even to the extent 
of the blue ribbon around the neck, a little refine- 
ment in which she was alone Miss Kinzie, a fresh 
Western beauty and a superb danseuse. Mrs. Sum- 
ner and Miss Hooper, though not powdered, were 
beautifully dressed." 

During the evening, Hay talked with the Chief 
Justice, who showed him Carpenter's engraving of 
the Reading of the Proclamation. "He objects to 
the whole picture being made subsidiary to Seward, 
who is talking while every one else either listens or 
stares into vacancy. He thinks it would have been 
infinitely better to have taken the 22d of September, 
when the Proclamation was really read to the Cabi- 
net. I referred to Seward's criticism that the subject 
was not well chosen that the really decisive Cabi- 
net meeting was that at which it was decided to pro- 


vision and reinforce Fort Sumter. He said there was 
no such meeting; that Mr. Lincoln asked the opinion 
of the Cabinet in writing; that there were but two 
of the Cabinet who favored the reinforcement, him- 
self and Blair; that Blair was more decided than 
he in favor of reinforcing the fort; that he (Chase) 
thought some strong and decided assertion or proc- 
lamation of the intention of the Government should 
have been made at that time. Chase was always a 
little addicted to coups de thtdtre. 

" I said I thought an exaggerated importance was 
often ascribed to the manner in which events were 
accomplished; that in great revolutionary times 
events accomplished themselves not by means of, 
but in spite of, the well-meant efforts of the best and 
wisest men. The Girondins nearly monopolized the 
brains of France; yet they were crushed out, as it 
was probably necessary they should be that the 
destiny of the people should be accomplished through 
their fever and their struggles. 

"He quite agreed with this, insisting, however, 
upon the individual responsibility of each one to 
do what seems best in his sight for the common- 

"Of course this was also my view. I am obsti- 
nately optimist, but not fatalist. Every man should 
do what he thinks is right, but he should know also 


that what the Republic does is right in the larg- 
est sense.' 9 

The Dix case, on which hung Hay's prospects of 
a diplomatic post, was delayed from day to day in 
the Senate. Charles Sumner, the dominating influ- 
ence in the Committee on Foreign Relations, held 
out against confirming him with the stubbornness 
of a virtuous fanatic, basing his opposition, not on 
the charges of cumulation of offices, but on Dix's 
having presided over the Philadelphia Convention. 
Sumner said: "It is the only ground I can stand 
on. I once reported against a man because he had 
delirium tremens. Saulsbury and McDougall l de- 
nounced me as a water-drinking fanatic. I once ob- 
jected to a candidate that he could not read. I was 
accused of searching an impossible Boston ideal of 
scholarship for public service. So now, if I say of a 
man that he supports the policy of the President, 
and that I will not send him abroad to misrepresent 
me and the Senate, that is intelligible and satis- 

Writing to Nicolay at this time Hay says: "Sum- 
ner has blood in his eye. He is splendid in his 
present temper arrogant, insolent, implacable 
thoroughly in earnest honest as the day." 

1 Senators Willard Saulabury, of Maryland, and James A. Mc- 
Dougall, of California. 


Whilst the appointment hung fire, Hay cast about 
for an alternative occupation. He received offers to 
join a firm of lawyers, or to become a claim agent. 
Either promised a good income in those days, when 
the American citizen who could not think up some 
claim against the national Treasury was either hope- 
lessly dull or singularly honest. Hay himself had 
bought in 1864 seven pieces of land in Florida, which 
he now got patents for; but this speculation never 
bore fruit for him. 

" February 12. After dinner went in to say good- 
night to the Chief Justice. His guests had just gone; 
it was eleven o'clock. I walked up and down the 
deserted salon with him a few moments. He said 
there had been a good many Southern people there 
that evening; that he made it a point to treat them 
always with especial courtesy. I agreed that this 
was a good thing to do, even where they abused you 
for it and called it Yankee subserviency and charged 
it to mean motives. They know it is not true; they 
feel their inferiority, and their bluster is the protest 
of wounded pride. Chase said he felt kindly towards 
the people of the South. He only demanded that 
no man of any color should suffer for having been 
loyal during the war; which is little enough to ask, 
and which must be insisted on, ruat c&lum." 

11 February 21. Dined with the Hoopers. . . . Mr. 


Hooper came in disgusted with the action of the 
House on the bill to redeem the 7-30 notes and 'for 
the inflation of the currency/ He could not help be- 
ing a little amused, even in his disgust, at the neat 
way in which they had taken advantage of his suc- 
cess in getting the bill introduced 'by turning it 
wrong-side out and handing it back to him passed.' 

41 During this week saw very much of Chase and his 
family; played a combination of billiards and 10 pins 
in the parlor, which kept us out of politics." 

Tired at last of waiting, Hay went to New York 
on February 23. There he talked over various busi- 
ness projects, and saw Guernsey, editor of Harper's 
Magazine, who said he would like some short stories, 
but "did not encourage the novel nor the Lincoln 
book." As usual, Hay called on many friends. 
"Thurlow Weed," he writes, "has spoken to me 
about going into the redaction of a newspaper, the 
Commercial Bulletin, which he "intends buying and 
running as a Republican paper, he assures me. I 
don't much like the idea of Hurlbert l in it, and the 
whole thing looks to me hopeless. This is no time for 
reactionary measures." 

On March 3, Forney telegraphed that Dix had 
been at last confirmed. Hay at once wrote Secretary 

1 William H. Hurlbert, a brilliant but untrusted New York edi- 
torial writer. 


Seward a long letter, full of gratitude for his benev- 
olent intentions. "I have come to regard you," he 
added, "as I know the world will, when the smoke 
has risen from the battlefields of to-day, as nearly 
as one may reach it, the ideal of the Republican 
workingman calm without apathy, bold without 
rashness, firm without obstinacy, and with a pa- 
triotism permeated with religious faith." 

There being nothing further to expect from Wash- 
ington, Hay journeyed to Warsaw. 



HAY returned to Warsaw as poor in purse as 
when he set out for Paris; for a diplomatic 
secretaryship was ill paid and led nowhere. In spite 
of his fondness for the great world, he always went 
home gladly. He loved his parents; he delighted in 
the old familiar places; and as he grew older he found 
more and more refreshment and delight in nature 

"I am safely lodged at last among my Lares and 
Penates," he wrote Nicolay on March 18. "I find 
my parents as well as ever; my mother better than 
usual, and full of her old good spirits; my father at 
66 with not a gray hair, with ruddy cheek and rav- 
enous appetite of a growing boy. . . . There is little 
comfort in the country now. The weather is hideous, 
i.e., what people insanely call 'beautiful, fresh, cold 
weather/ A cloudless sky, white shining distances, 
and a thermometer ten degrees below o according 
to-Meinherr Fahrenheit. I have escaped six winters 
and my good nature has been nipped and frozen in 
this absurd springtime." 

"Poverty everywhere," he added; and he warned 


Nicolay, who was still consul in Paris, "You had 
better not come here till you are kicked out and our 
crazy friends in the Senate have legislated all the 
dead-beats not in office into an eternity of bread and 
butter." Among other possible resources which he 
and Nicolay had talked over was a biography of 
Lincoln; but he reports: "Nobody is keen for our 
book. We will have to write it and publish on our 
own hook some day, when we can afford." 

As the spring wore on, Hay took great pleasure in 
gardening, in walks, and in working and idling in just 
sufficient measure so that work and loafing were al- 
ternately satisfying. He leased his five-acre apple- 
orchard to "a quaint and most worthy man, named 
Smith, a Methodist colporteur who peddles the 
Gospel with Methodist sauce in the winter and vexes 
the envious soil in the summer." "Two fine indus- 
trious Yankees," the Durfee boys, "have taken the 
vineyard and the ten-acre block" on College Hill 
"thoroughly good fellows with sand in their giz- 
zards." Hay himself spent a good deal of time on the 
different places, destroying caterpillars, "digging 
some, planting, pruning." Here follows a confession 
from which we infer that traces of the New England 
conscience still clung to him. " I find a singular love 
for that kind of work in myself. It is the sense of 
justification it gives me for not doing nothing. If I 


stay at home I cannot idle or read for amusement, 
without being haunted by the ceaseless reproach of 
misspent time. But in the fields, tiresome and monot- 
onous as the work may be such as shovelling dirt 
or dropping corn it frees me utterly from the sense 
of responsibility for the passing hour. I am doing 
work, substantial, real work, which will have its 
result doubtless some day, and so I plod on and 
watch the sun, glad after all when my day is done 
and I can ramble home through the magnificent hills 
and valleys that surround this town." 

Nevertheless, in respites from the haunting re- 
proaches, which we may suspect were not very acute, 
he enjoyed natural beauty without thought of ma- 
terial profit. " I never was so close to nature before 
since I was a child," he tells his Diary. "I have 
watched the flowers, like a detective, this spring." 
And then he goes on in quite the romantic vein, to 
rhapsodize over "a little patch of wild woodland 
that is very sweet and solitary full of fresh woodsy 
smells and far enough from any farmyards to be ut- 
terly still barring the birds and the grasshoppers 
whose racket only makes the solitude more perfect, 
by proof." Another day he stumbled on a bit "of 
open turf, thick in blue grass and superbly illumi- 
nated with great purple and field pansies that had 
probably bloomed for years unseen by any eyes, but 


the bright, beady ones of orioles and jays and cat- 
birds. It was worth the price I paid for the land, to 
feel that this exquisite show, so lavishly running to 
waste year after year, was mine. I would not pluck 
them the violets and phlox, the windflowers and 
bluebells because I loved them." 

In the valley pastures of his neighbors, however, 
he picked "redbud hawthorn, apple bloom and plum 
blossoms, right and left, making what [he] thought 
an equitable return in killing about a thousand ugly 
green-black-yellow caterpillars that had raised their 
tent on the limb of a splendid crab, all pink and fra- 
grant in its May bloom. . . . Then at the risk of my 
neck I clambered up the bank by Graver's where 
the curving precipice looks like a ruined amphi- 
theatre of the woodland gods that are gone I got 
a handful of columbine, and then came slowly down 
to the river and along its pebbly banks home. I can 
never get enough of looking at the River. It has its 
new fresh beauty every morning and noon; and a 
new and unimagined transfiguration every sunset." 

So sings the landscapist in words, the Romanticist 
whom Nature stirred with genuine though vague 

But what should he be? As a weaver of prose idyls 
he could not hope to keep body and soul together. 
A bread winning occupation must be found; and the 


quest for it, in the case of a man like Hay, whose 
aptitudes were many, offers some of the excitement 
of a sport. Would his temperament, or would oppor- 
tunity, triumph in the choice? 

Two or three possibilities came to nothing. Mun- 
roe, the Paris banker, had suggested that Hay might 
enter that house; but he now backed out. Of another 
offer Hay says: "I can't survey the prospect of 
plunging into this affair without a sort of shuddering 
horror." He disliked the job of claim agent, in spite 
of its lucrativeness. The law did not attract him. 
He could not forget that he had spent four years in 
Washington as Lincoln's secretary, a memory 
which exacted a certain dignity of him. 

"I can scarcely say now to myself what my plans 
are," he records on June 3. "Let me see. Go to 
Springfield see some publishers in New York and 
Boston write L's book for him write two lec- 
tures, and that will pretty well fill up the summer. 
If it were only myself that I thought of I would stay 
here. I will have an income all things succeeding 
of at least 500 [dollars] a year, and I can bring 
that up a few hundred by writing and have a more 
tranquil mind than anywhere else." 

Just after he wrote these lines, he learned through 
the New York Times that he was to be appointed 
Secretary of Legation to act as Chargt d' Affaires at 


Vienna, the post Motley had quitted in dudgeon. 
On receiving the official notification, which had been 
misdirected and was a fortnight late, Hay left War- 
saw for New York. Of his journey he records the 

"Rode to Carthage in the same seat with Robert 
Lincoln, a second cousin of the late President. He is 
forty-one years old, looks much older. The same eyes 
and hair the President had the same tall stature 
and shambling gait, less exaggerated; a rather rough, 
farmer-looking man. Drinks hard, chews ravenously. 
He says the family is about run out. 'We are not a 
very marrying set.' He is dying of consumption, he 
said very coolly. There was something startling in 
the resemblance of the straight thicket of hair, and 
the grey, cavernous eyes framed in black brows and 
lashes, to the features of the great dead man. He 
was a pioneer of our country. Knew my father since 
long years. Brought a load of wheat to Gould & 
Miller in 1842 with ox teams; got $90 in gold for it. 
Told me that in 1860 he had talked to 'Abe 1 about 
assassination. Abe said: 'I never injured anybody. 
No one is going to hurt me.' He says he was invited 
by Abe to go to Washington at the time of the 
inauguration, but declined, thinking it dangerous a 
naivetS of statement I thought would have been 
impossible out of the West/' 


Hay sailed on June 29, 1867, from New York on 
the City of Boston the steamer which not long 
afterwards disappeared in mid-ocean and has never 
been heard of since. Ten days later he landed at 
Liverpool, and, like most Americans, he lost no time 
in going up to London. There he enjoyed during a 
brief stay the double pleasure of seeing some of the 
celebrities of the time and of visiting Westminster 
Abbey and other monuments which had long been 
shrines in his imagination. He lunched at 54 Port- 
land Place, with Charles Francis Adams, the Amer- 
ican Minister, where, he says, "we tore our friends 
to pieces a little while. Motley got one or two 
slaps that were very unexpected to me. Sumner and 
his new wife were brushed up a little." It was to 
this marriage that Hay referred in his Paris Diary: 
"Col. Ritchie informed me today of Sumner's en- 
gagement to Mrs. Sturgis Hooper. He wrote a let- 
ter to Mrs. Adams announcing his engagement, but 
did not even mention the lady's name. This is em- 
inently characteristic. The great point with Sum- 
ner is that he is to be married. If the lady happens 
to get married about the same time, all the better for 
her. But this is quite a secondary consideration." 
Hay's record of an afternoon spent in the Houses 
of Parliament contains some interesting pen-por- 
traits. In the vestibule he met Lord Eliot, "looking 


with his blazing head and whiskers as if he "had 
just come through hell with his hat off. ... On the 
Government bench, to the right of the Speaker, the 
most noticeable man was Disraeli [who was just 
carrying through his Reform Bill]. He has grown 
enormously in the public estimation in this session. 
... In the great fight now beginning between Privi- 
lege and Democracy in England, the Democrats will 
have need of all their skill and discretion, for the 
Aristocracy seem to perceive to a great extent the 
meaning of the occasion, and they will throw every- 
thing away in the fight that does not seem essential. 
If the Republicans are not distracted by false issues 
they will conquer at last, by the force of numbers. But 
they must make a good fight or suffer long delays. 

11 While we were there, Disraeli, Gladstone, Forster, 
Newdegate and several others made short conversa- 
tional talks. I was very much impressed with their 
directness and simplicity of statement. I think the 
exclusion of the public, by taking away all tempta- 
tion to display, has a very fine effect on parliamentary 
oratory. Nothing could be clearer and finer than 
Disraeli's and Gladstone's manner of stating their 

"The members sat with their hats on, taking 
them off when they rose to speak, and replacing 
them immediately afterwards. Many had their feet 


on the back of the bench in front. Yet on the whole 
their demeanor was very attentive and respectful. 
They have a very decided way of expressing their 
approbation or disapproval of the member speaking. 
I admired Newdegate's coolness in holding his own 
and talking, unmoved by a general growl of ill- 
natured comment, until the Speaker called him to 

The debate in the Commons not being specially 
interesting, Hay's party crossed to the House of 
Lords and took seats on the steps of the Throne. 

"The Lord Chancellor was in his seat. In front of 
him the Clerks; on either side, on benches, the Peers. 
The Government occupying his right; Lord Derby 
at their head. Nearest us, on the right, were the 
spiritual Lords; the Archbishop of Canterbury, an 
elderly and rather infirm-looking man; the Bishop of 
Oxford, a fine, portly prelate, whose blue riband 
made me think of a prize ox; the Bishop of Bath and 
Wells and the Bishop of London. 

11 On our left sat the Duke of Buccleugh, a stiff dry 
Scotchman, with a wen on his forehead. Next him 
snored comfortably Viscount Sidney. Then came 
Lord Stanhope. Then the Duke of Argyll, small of 
stature and red of hair. Moran pointed out to us the 
tall, slender, finicky Marquis of Bath, who was 
severely nipped by the Cotton Loan; Earl Powis, a 

smaller Forrest l without the moustache; the Duke of 
Richmond, a good-looking silver-haired man; Lord 
Stratford de Redcliffe, a rather undersized old gentle- 
man, white-haired, bent, and not in the least the 
grand manner that Kinglake 2 fancies; and the Duke 
of Buckingham and Chandos, the most remarkable- 
looking nobleman I ever saw who looks in style, 
station, dress, way of getting over the ground, face 
and feature like a brisk country grocer in New Eng- 
land. Yet he is one of the best bloods that the 
English stud can show and is a bright fellow besides, 
as his plucky retrieval of his estates, ruined by the 
waste of his father, shows. Bourgeois as he looks, 
he is as proud as any one of his class, they say. The 
Earl of Bradford is a good-looking, youngish man. 
Lord Romilly and Lord Cairns, two recent additions 
to the law Lords, made short, sensible speeches while 
we were there." 

That evening, "a good-hearted grain-dealer from 
Milwaukee, who has been to Paris for ten days and 
comes back bored to death because he could n't tell 
a cabman where to drive," took Hay and his com- 
panions to Cremorne and the Alhambra; " which 
are," Hay writes, "dreary beyond the power of hu- 
man tongue to describe. Yet they were full of the 

1 Edwin Forrest, the American tragedian. 
1 In his " History of the Crimean War." 


same class one finds in the Mabille and elsewhere, 
who have nothing better in God's World to do. ... 
We passed down the Haymarket fora quarter of an 
hour. The streets were full of poor old women and 
some not so old, painted, bedizened and miserable. 
... It was certainly in London that Pope learned 
that 'Vice is a monster of such frightful mien/ 

Before leaving London, Hay called on Motley, just 
back from Vienna. "I shall never have any more 
doubt/' Hay records, "as to the long mooted ques- 
tion whether it hurts a man to cut off his head. It 
hurts like the devil. He received me very coolly 
and stiffly, not speaking a word in reply to my salu- 
tation. He answered in the dryest and briefest way 
my questions about his family. I asked when he 
had left Vienna and he began to talk. He grew almost 
hysterical in his denunciation of the 'disgusting, 
nasty outrage of his being turned out/ ' His resigna- 
tion had been forced from him by a trick and then 
snapped at, to give the place to somebody else/ 
4 But the crowning insult of all was his recent letter 
of recall/ 

"He evidently thought that the Senate was going 
to keep him in by rejecting all nominees, and was 
bitterly disappointed at the turn things had taken. 
He wanted to stay at Vienna a few years more to 


make the necessary researches in the archives there 
for his history of the Thirty Years' War. 

"We talked an hour or so. As it is not possible 
to justify entirely the conduct of the Government in 
this matter, I did not attempt that, but explained 
to Motley how I thought he was mistaken in im- 
puting it to any hostility on Seward's part. Seward's 
utter indifference to attacks and his philosophic 
calmness under abuse, I think, render him a little 
indifferent to the sufferings of his sensitive fellow- 
creatures under the same inflictions. He never 
dreamed that Motley would take that letter in such 
dudgeon, though it must be admitted that it was 
a frightful one for a gentleman to write or to re- 


At a farewell dinner at Mr. Adams's Hay reports 
that they " talked among other things of the late 
extraordinary recantation speech of Earl Russell. 
Adams says Russell has been always, in his way, our 
friend, Gladstone has not; has been led away by his 
impulses now and then. Adams thinks Disraeli has 
forced the present bill on the Tory party, that he 
has led them the devil's own rigadoon of a dance. 
If so, I take back all the credit I have given them 
for shrewdness and sagacity, and transfer it all to 
Dizzy himself. Then Adams gave a most humorous 
account of the visit of the Prince of Wales to the 


Monitor. They evidently dislike Fox at No. 54. I 
hardly know why." 

Hay went to the Continent by way of Salisbury 
and Stonehenge. Early in August he reached Vienna, 
where he established himself in "an apartment of 
three good rooms, kitchen and servant's room," for 
which he paid 1500 florins a year. It being summer, 
society was out of town, so that he had all the more 
leisure for making himself familiar with the city. 
His zest for sight-seeing had not worn off, and for 
him sight-seeing included not only galleries and 
monuments but the habits and customs of the people. 

"The great luxury is music," he writes enthusi- 
astically to Nicolay. "One of the Strauss family 
leads in the Volksgarten several times a week, ad- 
mission 40 kreutzer, not 20 cents. Or you can cool 
your nose on the bars of the enclosure and hear it 
for nothing if you are not Beamier [an official]. 
The opera is good the only ballet I ever saw that 
was not a bore. Faust was superbly given a few 
nights ago. Mr. Motley has a box and has given me 
the reversion of it till October, in which I am luxu- 
rious. The acting is very fine also in the Hofburg 
Theatre, the classic and Offenbach is lord over 
all in the other show-houses. Blue Beard, Belle 
Helene, and the Grand Duchess, have delighted the 
town for the last fortnight." (September 2, 1867.) 


Vienna was forgetting the tragedy of a disastrous 
war and Paris was hastening towards destruction to 
the tuneful frivolities of Offenbach so uncertain 
is music in registering the moral values of a period. 

"The suburbs of this town the environs ra- 
ther M Hay goes on, "are very beautiful. I spend 
most of my Sundays in the mountains and valleys 
of this chain of the Tyrols that seems to have been 
caught and turned into a wild pleasure ground." 

At Vienna, Hay came for the first time upon a 
people still bound by ancient religious superstitions 
and upon a government which still permitted a large 
measure of ecclesiastical control in the affairs of the 
State. He observed with increasing wonder the per- 
sistence of medieval ideals. The frequency of Church 
festivals, encouraged for obvious reasons, stirred in 
him surprise and amusement. On such occasions, he 

"The whole town shuts up shop and goes to the 
country. They eat a good dinner, drink a good deal 
of beer, and smoke many cigars, and the economies 
of the week vanish in the enjoyment of a day. 
When they go off on these excursions they are very 
sensible about it, enjoying themselves in a most 
hearty and naive way. They do not seem to need 
the excitement and amusement that the Parisians 
crave or demand. They are contented to lie on the 


grass and look at the white clouds, to loaf through 
the balsamic woods, to live and let the world roll on. 
They break very easily into groups of two, and are 
not ashamed to let the world into the confidence of 
their tender sentiments." 

Vienna prided itself, indeed, on being the gay 
capital; and to foreigners, the Viennese seemed a 
people incapable of emotions deeper than a waltz 
could express, or of griefs too poignant for a waltz 
to soothe. Only the year before, Austria, beaten by 
the terrible Prussians at Sadowa, had lost her leader- 
ship; but she was now outwardly cheerful. The war 
had forced her to adjust herself to more modern 
conditions; and Hay studied, as best he could, the 
progress of the Compromise with Hungary and the 
various reforms which were eagerly debated in par- 
liament. As his official duties took up little of his 
time, he spent his leisure in excursions, or in watch- 
ing the folk life in the streets, or at the theatre and 
opera. One of his keen pleasures was visiting the 
galleries. Already at the Louvre he had begun to 
cultivate his taste in paintings and statues, and in 
London he "walked through the National Gallery 
and saw for the first time Turner. I would go to him 
very often if I lived in London," he adds. On his 
way to Vienna, he had seen, at Antwerp, some fine 
examples of the great Flemings. Now, at the Belve- 


dere, he went on to explore the magic world of the 
fine arts. He sets down his enthusiasm with delight- 
ful frankness, not caring whether his riper judgment 
may repudiate his first impression. 

Thus, on going to the Belvedere, the first thing his 
eyes light upon are "the two sway-backed horses 
that romp before the palace in an attitude suggesting 
a sudden attack of mollities ossium. A man who has 
once seen and thoroughly studied the Marly horses 
at the gates of the Champs Elys6es, has his judg- 
ment formed and his verdict forestalled for any other 
horses that have ever been cast or hewn. All the 
other rampant horses I have ever seen impress me 
as imperfect imitations, or desperate variations of 
the incomparable marbles of Couston." 

For subtlety, fervor, and characteristic flashes of 
humor none of his notes on paintings excel the fol- 
lowing description of Rubens's portrait of his second 

"I found food for my new love of Rubens," he 
says, "whom I detested in Paris, but to whom I have 
made reverent recantation since Antwerp. In fact, 
the picture I was most curious to see was his Helen 
Fourment, that odd and fantastic, artistic pillory- 
ing of a pretty woman's immodest fancy and a hus- 
band's proud and sensual love for the disrespectful 
admiration of all time." . . . [with some difficulty] 


" 1 came before the object of my search. It stood in a 
good light by a window. ... I felt as glad as if I had 
found a lucky stone. So she stood, those centuries 
ago, before her fond, jolly husband, to whom Art was 
its own excuse in everything. You can see in the 
pretty naive face, with its great blue eyes, full yet 
of childish wonder, framed in those splendid, crisp 
locks of gold, the struggle of love and vanity against 
natural modesty. She snatches up the artist's furred 
cloak and wraps it round her with a quick, coquettish 
grace and all the warring sentiments are appeased. 
They are as old as Eden, the vanity, the sensualism, 
the suggestive concealment. And as she stands thus, 
in that attitude where grace and awkwardness are, 
as in all real women, so charmingly blended, the fond 
eye of the Artist husband catches the fleeting love- 
liness and fixes it forever. The sweet, artless, spoiled 
child face that we know so well, that walks with 
Rubens in the garden in the Pinacothek at Munich, 
that goes sailing up to heaven in the altar-piece at 
Antwerp, and stands on the volet of her husband's 
stupendous work, The Descent from the Cross, is 
here most exquisitely drawn, and the enamoured 
artist revels in the red and white and blue and gold 
of cheeks, lips, hair and eyes. And yet you see 
that he loves no less the soft, round pink knees 
and the fat, white feet. You are glad Rubens had 


such a wife, and very glad he did not marry your 

The man who wrote that assuredly lacked neither 
discernment nor literary skill; yet he still felt him- 
self a novice in art criticism. "I think I shall be 
friends with the Belvedere," he records after his 
first visit. " I spent a day there some weeks ago, to 
get the 'hang of the schoolhouse.' A Western boy, 
who had never learned his letters, on his first day at 
school was asked by the schoolmistress if he could 
read. He replied, with the spirit of Western pluck, he 
reckoned he could as soon as he got the hang of the 

Equally vivid are Hay's sketches of street scenes 
in Vienna. Here is one of a religious procession. 

"Monks in dozens with shaved heads, the first 
honest shaved heads I have ever seen, all sorts of 
ecclesiastical supes with candles, that flickered in the 
wind and went out. Some lit them conscientiously 
and shaded them with their hands. Others marched 
on stolidly, careless of appearances, with shameless 
black wicks. Six expensive-looking fellows carried 
a heavily embroidered baldaquin; six more lighted 
them with gorgeous red lamps. Under the balda- 
quin walked a very pompous party, who from time 
to time stopped the procession and made a remark or 
so in an unknown tongue; upon which the whole pro- 


cession and the majority of the bystanders ducked, 
beat their breasts and moaned as if in severe indi- 
gestion. A smell of incense filled the air, which to 
me always has an odor of good company, I do not 
know why. I took off my hat with the rest, and was 
grateful for the incense and the music. I believe 
Austria is the only country on earth where the priests 
wear top boots. It gives them a remarkably rakish 
and knowing air. They feel their oats more plainly 
here than anywhere in the world." 

And here is a view of the Viennese Ghetto, swept 
away in the modernizing of the old town which was 
in process while Hay was writing: 

"As I go in the early morning to take my plunge 
and splash in the Danube water in Leopold Stadt, 
I walk through the Tiefen Graben, the deep ditch 
which marks the site of the ancient moat of the 
outer fortress of the city. . . . 

"The Tiefen Graben is so far below the average 
level of the city that, about half way down its length, 
Wipplinger Strasse strides far above it in the air. In 
the T. G. you wonder what that suspension bridge is 
for, and in Wipplinger Strasse you gaze with amaze- 
ment at the men and wagons burrowing at the bot- 
tom of the ditch. The Tiefen Graben runs into the 
Gestade, and out of this dark, foul and utterly ig- 
noble place starts the Talzgries, which runs for a 


few hundred paces and ends in the broad, bright, 
garish sunshine and wide daylight of the Donau 

"Along this unclean street rolls an endless tide 
of Polish Jews, continually supplied by little rivulets 
running down from the Judenplatz and the culs de 
sac of that neighborhood, not running, but trickling 
down the steep, stone bed of the canons called Fischer 
Stiege and Marien Stiege and Wachtel Gasse, Quail 
Alley. These squalid veins and arteries of impov- 
erished and degenerate blood are very fascinating to 
me. I have never seen a decent person in these alleys 
or on those slippery stairs. But everywhere stoop- 
ing, dirty figures in long, patched and oily black 
gabardines of every conceivable material, the richest 
the shabbiest usually, because oldest and most used, 
covering the slouching, creeping form, from the 
round shoulders to the splay, shuffling feet. A bat- 
tered soft felt hat crowns the oblique, indolent, 
crafty face, and, what is most offensive of all, a pair 
of greasy curls dangle in front of the pendulous ears. 
This coquetry of hideousness is most nauseous. The 
old Puritan who wrote in Barebones* time on the 
'Unloveliness of love locks' could here have either 
found full confirmation of his criticism or turned with 
disgust from his theme. 

"What they are all doing is the wonder. They 


stand idle and apathetic in the sunshine, or gather 
in silent or chatty groups of three or four, take snuff 
and blow their aquiline noses in chorus on dubious 
brown handkerchiefs. They have utterly revolu- 
tionized my ideas of the Hebrew. In America we 
always say, 'Rich as a Jew,' because even if a Jew 
is poor he is so brisk, so sharp and enterprising that 
he is sure to make money eventually. But these 
slouching rascals are as idle as they are ugly. It oc- 
curred to me that it might be those long coats that 
keep them down in life, and that the next generation, 
if put early into roundabouts, might be spry fellows. 
But the Jesuits moved the world in their long coats. 
I suppose the curse of the nation has lit on these 
fellows especially. 

"All this quarter is subject to them apparently, 
for the little, obscure shops in the blind alleys have 
Hebrew signs. This was another shock to me. Think 
of tallow and onions advertised in a corner grocery 
in the sublime and mysterious characters in which 
the Tables of the Law were carved. I saw that this 

Such is the Ghetto by daylight. Hay is equally 
graphic in describing it by night, when he "walked 
again through those blind alleys and swarming 
streets. The veil of darkness made the crowd more 
easy and confidential. The noise of traffic was over, 


but the small hucksters were busy shovelling their 
green peaches and astringent pears into buckets, or 
cooping up their melancholy chickens and ducks that 
seemed heavy-hearted and humiliated that the day 
had passed and they were not stewed. The talk in 
the streets was noisier and freer; the dinner and the 
darkness had loosened these awkward tongues. 
Porters and charwomen stood in discreet corners and 
squeezed each others' hard fingers. The same mys- 
terious Hebrew glided by, a little brisker as the 
night gathered and loafing time was shortened. 

"In the Gestade I came across a group of little 
Goths who had pulled off their trousers and were 
lashing each other merrily with them. Old women 
sat dozing on their doorsteps, too tired to rest well ; 
almost always alone. Their men were dead or off to 
the beer shops. While the women are young, they 
go with them. But with age comes for them only the 
brute's drudgery and the brute's repose. Under the 
shadow of the tall black hulk of Mary-Stairs Church, 
young women sat in silence with shabby and ignoble- 
looking men. And overhead, between the high walls 
of the narrow streets, you could see as clear and dark 
blue patches of sky, as if you stood on the icy spire 
of the Matterhorn." 

"Began to-day to study the substratum of Vien- 
nese life," Hay writes on September 13, 1867; but I 


find few later allusions to it. " I am mentioned in 
the Fremden Blatt as 4 Der Amerikanische Minister 
Camel-Hey.' That looks deliciously Oriental: I can 
imagine myself in a burnous and yellow shoes." 

He continued all the while his observations of the 
upper classes. After spending Christmas Eve at 
Mrs. Lippitt's, he notes: "The young ladies were as 
pretty as ever and very easy and gay. I never saw 
better breeding than there is in the Haute Bour- 
geoisie of Vienna. They talked German to me for the 
first time, and I was astonished at their wit and the 
profoundness of their criticism and observation, 
which I had utterly failed to see in their English. (I 
think one reason diplomatists are as a general rule 
so stupid is, that they are so much in the habit of 
speaking a foreign language.) The whole household 
praised my German so that I grew ashamed to speak 

Here and there Hay's Diary shows us glimpses of 
life at Vienna, and of the theatrical life which was 
closely bound to it. 

"Last night" (December 17), he says, "was the 
first reception of the Due de Gramont, 1 and the first 
night of the new ballet, Nana Sahib. The French 
Embassy was pretty well filled with pretty faces 
and toilettes. Some of the Hungarian women were 

1 French Ambassador. 


strikingly beautiful. . . . The Archduke Wilhelm 
was at Gramont's. The ladies took an enormous 
interest in him on account of the vow of celibacy 
which as Grand Master of the Teutonic Order he 
must take. There was also a daughter of Alexander 
Dumas, a miraculous conception of ugliness." 

Under the date 18 February, 1868, is an account 
of a ball at the Palace in honor of the wedding of the 
young Grand Duchess of Modena to Prince Louis 
of Bavaria. 

"In the Diplomatic Circle," Hay writes, "I was 
presented to the Emperor [Francis Joseph] by Baron 
Beust. His Majesty was especially courteous. He 
spoke among other things of the wonderful resources 
we had displayed in our recent war and of the sudden 
and complete peace that had followed. He spoke of 
the difficult position [of the] President and compli- 
mented him highly on his 'energy and courageous 
consistency.' The ball was given last night in my 
opinion to afford the Imperial family and the great 
officers of the Empire a valid excuse for absenting 
themselves from the ceremonies of the silver wed- 
ding of the King of Hanover, which took place at 
the same time, with great 6clat in the Kursalon. . . . 
The occasion has been awaited for some time, not 
without uneasiness, as it was thought not improb- 
able that the dispossessed King might indulge in a 


demonstration that would seriously compromise his 
position with the courts both in Vienna and Berlin. 
But no one could have imagined that his reckless 
anger and vanity would lead him so far. He made 
a speech of the most violent character, in direct 
contravention of all the recent treaties made with 
him at such enormous cost by the Government of 
Prussia, and in defiance of the laws of propriety 
which should have restrained him as the guest of 

14 It is generally considered something more than a 
coincidence that Mr. de Bismarck yesterday de- 
clared that if the Hanoverian intrigues were not 
speedily discontinued, the severest measures of se- 
questration would immediately be put in force. It 
remains to be seen whether, even yet, the King of 
Prussia can be persuaded from his rigid adherence 
to the dogma of divine right, to allow justice to be 
done to an avowed public enemy." 

"April 22. Post came in and while we were talk- 
ing artillery began. He could n't keep still, so we 
went out and saw a neat little review in the Parade 
Plate. I thought it was the Imperial Baby, but was 
wrong; for to-day 100 guns thundered the glad tid- 
ings to Austria that they had another omnivorous 
Hapsburg to provide for." 

Of one other celebrity, Prince Napoleon, familiarly 


known to his contemporaries by his nickname " Plon- 
Plon," Hay speaks. 

"June 7, 1868. I went over to the Golden Lamb, 
Leopoldstadt, about i o'clock. I was received, I be- 
lieve, by Col. Ragon. Count Zichy was in the ante- 
chamber with the Colonel. Heckern came in before 
long. He introduced me and Zichy. We talked a good 
while till Werther (Prussian) who was with the Prince 
came out and Zichy went in. Heckern began girding 
at Werther about the supposed treaties and intrigues 
he had cooked up with the Prince. Werther, to es- 
cape persecution, turned to me and talked impeach- 
ment. Zichy made a long stay. Ferri-Pisani came 
in. At last Zichy emerged and I went in. The Prince 
received me in a pleasant offhand way and we began 
at once to talk about America and his visit there. 
He remembered most of the names now prominent 
in politics. He spoke of Seward said he ought to 
have prevented the President's trip to Chicago. Said 
he remembered Colfax, a young blackfaced man 
President of the Legislative Body he meant Grow. 
He spoke of Stanton as a man of great merit and 
deplored his leaving the War Office, but remembered 
Schofield and was much pleased with what he saw 
of him. After a few words about Germany, and the 
interesting moment in which he visits it, the inter- 
view ended by my retiring." 


Although the fame of actors and singers is often 
more fleeting than that of grandees and politicians, 
the following notes are interesting, if only as regis- 
ters of John Hay's taste at the time he wrote them. 

11 September u, 1867. Heard to-night Minna von 
Barnhdm at the Burg. It was well played by Son- 
nenthal, whom the ladies love because of his good 
legs; by La Roche, who is said to be a son of Goethe 
and who really resembles him strikingly; by Meixner 
and Schone. Either a majority of the audience un- 
derstood French, or they were well bred enough to 
seem to, for in the long scene between Minna and 
Riccaut de la Marlintere they listened with the same 
quiet attention which they always give to the play. 
The women were Bognar and Schneeberger the 
former good but gaspy, and the latter first rate. 
Baumeister was excellent as the Wachtmeister. . . . 
There is too much talk in the German plays to suit 


A few days later Hay saw King Lear at the Burg 
Theatre. "A general dead level of respectable acting 
that was very dreary in effect," is his criticism. " I 
remembered Forrest's storms and tempests of pas- 
sion often overdone, sometimes in bad taste, but 
always full of wonderful spirit and inexhaustible 
physical energy; and the careful and somewhat 
lachrymose style of Wagner suffered very much by 


comparison. Then Schlegel's text, though very cor- 
rect and scholarly, is not Shakespeare. There is not 
a word of Shakespeare that can well be altered now. 
The blast of his mighty thought, sweeping through 
his words for three centuries, has attuned them to 
an immortal and perfect harmony. I was very curi- 
ous to see Shakespeare in German. It is certainly 
very fine. But I shall not go often." 

Of the nobles, Hay had a poor opinion. " Litera- 
ture is considered here rather a low business," he 
says. " If a noble is clever and can write verses, he 
is very proud of it, but as a gentleman is proud of 
being able to dance a clog dance or play the banjo 
well. So they never put their names to their poems, 
but have a literary name, which is kept rigidly dis- 
tinct from the one that bears sixteen quarterings. 
Count Anton Auersperg is Anastasius Griin, Baron 
Miinch-Bellinghausen is Fried Hahn." 

A little later he writes: "The Great Princes here 
speak very bad German like ' Fiaker.' They learn 
in their youth nothing but French, dogs, horses, 
women. They are embarrassed when they meet with 
cultivated men, and so avoid 'mixed society/ To- 
gether, they are all alike/ 1 Hay tells of one eccen- 
tric person, Henikstein, who " took me in and showed 
me his coffin and the skeletons of his friends. One of 
a woman, 'une bonne amie d moi,' whom he chucked 


under the chin and made the bony head wag and grin 
in the candlelight, and the teeth rattle. A music 
box played dirges. Hatchments hung all around 
dated 186-." 

A glimpse of the Court is given in this memoran- 
dum: "To-day (December 30) Countess Konigsegg 
received for the Empress at the Burg. A small, richly 
furnished room. Men and ladies in brilliant uni- 
forms, and the richest and most eclatant satins, 
coming and going. The brilliancy of colors was sug- 
gestive of ophthalmia. In the evening, drove out 
to the Augustan, where Prince Hohenlohe was re- 
ceiving for the Emperor. Along the avenue to the 
Pavilion, pine- wood torches gave a glaring light. 
Inside the door of the vestibule was ranged a semi- 
circle of some dozens of splendidly dressed menials, 
with heads powdered as if by a passing snowstorm, 
to head off the unwary from improper stairs and 
force them into the broad way that led in to Hohen- 
lohe. He is a youngish, stiffish, very pleasant-spoken 
man, baldish on the bump of firmness. Esterhazy 
was there, with the handsome clothes, gallant bear- 
ing and feeble face you would expect from an old 
youth who has squandered all of his estates that he 


Hay had few occasions for sending official des- 
patches to the State Department, but he always en- 


riched them with information and comment which 
must have rejoiced Mr. Seward; for it was rare then, 
in America, to get authentic news of the Austrian 
crises. I quote a single passage from one of the des- 
patches, because, although it is dated February 5, 
1868, it is still fresh, and it shows how early Hay 
adopted that gospel of Peace which, when he came 
to be Secretary of State, he labored to spread 
throughout the world. 

"The great calamity and danger of Europe to- 
day," he writes Secretary Seward, "are these enor- 
mous armaments. No honest statesman can say 
that he sees in the present attitude of politics the 
necessity of war. No great Power is threatened. 
There is no menace to peace that could not be im- 
mediately dispelled by a firm protest of the peace- 
fully disposed majority of nations. There would be, 
therefore, no danger to any people, but a vast and 
immediate gain to all from a general disarmament. 
It need not be simultaneous. It is idle to say that 
France fears an invasion from Prussia or Prussia 
from France, and an honest understanding among 
the Western nations would keep the peace from the 
Eastern side. 

"Why then is this awful waste of youth and treas- 
ure continued? I believe from no other motive than 
to sustain the waning prestige of Kings. Armies are 


to-day only useful in Europe to overcome the people 
in peace, or by groundless wars to divert their atten- 
tion from domestic misrule. With the disappear- 
ance of great armies, the welfare of the people would 
become the only mainspring of national action, and 
that false and wicked equilibrium by which now the 
interests of one man weigh as heavily as those of 
millions of his fellow creatures, would be utterly 

Hay watched intently the struggle of Austrian 
Liberals to free themselves from the Clerical control 
that threatened strangulation. 

"The Church is enormously rich," he writes, "and 
has thus far succeeded in retaining its vast posses- 
sions free from the requisitions of the sorely pressed 
and almost bankrupt government. In Vienna nearly 
every one of the great religious orders are still in 
full possession of the vast estates acquired by their 
predecessors in the Middle Ages. The Schottenhof, 
a reminiscence of the Scotch Benedictines of the 
twelfth century, the Molkenhof and others are little 
cities of themselves. The Liberals, there are a few 
Liberals here, are very bitter upon this non-pro- 
ducing and all-consuming body.' 9 

"It would be disastrous/ 9 he says a little later, 
"if the Church should have the wit to take advan- 
tage of this juncture to lay upon themselves a free 


tax, and trade the sums thus easily raised against a 
re-affirmation of the Concordat. The existence of 
this incubus is now seriously menaced. It is improb- 
able that it can much longer continue to oppress and 
crush the life of this nation. The Church is making 
frantic efforts to save it. ... The toothless old giant 
that Bunyan set away out of the active field of fight 
two centuries ago, has still wit enough to make the 
proudest monarchy of earth hew his wood and draw 
his water." 

We are not concerned to follow the course of this 
conflict between Church and State, in which the 
State finally gained a slight advantage ; but we can be 
amused, as Hay was, at the reactionary party, who, 
when there was a popular rejoicing over the passage 
of a favorable vote in the House of Peers, "were furi- 
ous and either silly or malicious enough to telegraph 
the Emperor that a revolutionary emeute was in 
progress. They scared the Archduchess' mother out 
of bed, and Aristocracy in general sat and shivered 
in its nightshirt until the crowd, tired with its loyal 
jubilee, went home to bed." 

Having plenty of leisure Hay went on several 
journeys. He "poked round Poland, lonesomely 
enough, but fully compensated by the unusual and 
peculiar towns [he] passed through." He found War- 
saw "a very respectable place," with two theaters 


and a fair opera. " Cracow was the quaintest and 
most entirely satisfactory little town [he] ever saw. 
It has only 40,000 inhabitants, but it has a cathedral 
and theatre, (where [he] heard a very fair burlesque), 
and a regular mediaeval Jews' Quarter." 

Late in the autumn, he made a flying visit to 

The pocketbook in which he jotted down hour by 
hour the sights which most impressed him on this 
trip shows how keenly and also how independently, 
he observed. He does not record the ordinary things, 
or give rein to moralizing and emotions. He makes, 
rather, a skeleton from which he might afterwards 
develop a well-rounded, graphic picture. As usual, 
he puts in bits of landscape. Here, for instance, are 
glimpses on the Danube. 

"Wild and superb scenery to Orsova. Red sand- 
stone hills by Greben. The lake. The Pass of Kazan. 
Long before we came to it we could see the dense 
veil of vapor behind the hills. A sheer granite rock 
on the left of the Greben Lake like the Schreckhorn. 
As we entered the pass a wild storm of rain and wind 
came howling through: the rain whirling like a volley 
of bullets. Nature making a last desperate stand. 
The cliffs rising higher and higher, till the last one 
sprang sheer 2000 feet, its head buried in the tattered 
clouds. Just beyond a tranquil collapse. Here is 


most plainly seen the remains of Trajan's road. 
Not only the mortise holes but a portion of the gal- 
lery itself hollowed in the rock exists." (November 

9, 1867.) 

At Constantinople, he wrote in more detail, prob- 
ably with the purpose of working up his notes into 
an article. After landing at Galata in the forenoon, 
and getting quarters at the H6tel de Byzance on 
the Pera hill, he and his companions ''An Ameri- 
can," named Whittlesey, "and a young Bostonian, 
a Quincy " prepare for sight-seeing. 

11 Dress and go to the Whirling Dervishes. Enter 
a pleasant walled place. Pass into a light anteroom 
where you put on overshoes. Go through a door 
hung with a heavy and thick curtain into a circular 
room. Green pillars. To the right, Christians: left, 
Turks. Galleries above. Ladies' gallery grated, 
and painted with trees and shrubs, all slanted to 
Mecca. The Dervishes all standing around the cir- 
cumference of the circle. The old sheik enters. They 
bow profoundly. He sits down, kneels, and the pray- 
ing begins. He mumbles and mutters and in the gal- 
lery over the entrance another sings the responses in 
a nasal twang. The whole body rise and go to the 
centre of the room and fall on their knees. They 
heave and sit, rising and kissing the floor in time 
to the singing. After the prayer is finished they go 


back to the place around the circumference and the 
old fellow in the choir sings a long solo. After a mo- 
ment of silence the orchestra begins a subtle dizzy- 
ing sound of wind and wood instruments. This con- 
tinues some time, buzzing, sultry. Then the old 
sheik rises and starts around the room and the rest 
follow, all bowing to the mat he has been sitting on. 
Their costumes are exactly the same in cut, differ in 
color. The old sheik and his boy are green; the 
second sheik and his boy are brown. They go around 
three times. Then the sheik stands still and the 
whole party range themselves again in the circum- 
ference; throw off their cloaks. The music becomes 
a shriller, louder music of drums and flutes, and the 
dervishes cross arms over chest, the hands resting 
on the shoulders, and march by the sheik. As they 
pass him they begin whirling, at first slowly and 
then faster, throwing out their arms, very regularly, 
their dresses widening downwards. Garibaldi and 
morning (?) dress of young ladies of to-day. Con- 
centric circles. Looking over shoulders. Different 
types. . . . Turk in the corner, fervent piety. Cath- 
olic Turks telling their beads during the perform- 
ance. Foreigners. . . ." 

On another day the party crossed the Bosphorus, 
visited Scutari, climbed Mount Boulgourlou on 
stallions, enjoyed the magnificent view, and on their 


return saw a performance of the Howling Dervishes. 
Hay describes them almost as minutely as he did the 

"The Dervishes enter barefoot this time. -Sitting 
in a circle singing. Sheik praying. As each one en- 
tered, kissed his hand. After a while they rise, and 
begin singing and swaying. This continues an hour. 
The motion and the time change, becoming always 
more rapid. The performers form a straight line 
across the end of the room. Two rows of older fel- 
lows sit cross-legged in the middle of the room to 
keep up the shrill singing. Reel and put on night- 
caps. Violent, brutal excitement. The negro, clap- 
ping hands, wiping face, growls. 

"Green and yellow child among the performers. 
The sick children. Very heavily clothed. Very much 
like a negro shout. Instruments of torture about the 
room. Not now used. Bad fame of the Dervishes. 
Great influence. Lay brothers. Old sheik of a great 

Hay and his companions sailed from Constanti- 
nople to Trieste by an Austrian Lloyd steamer. As 
it steered westward Hay "watched the matchless 
view of the city, cut off by the Golden Horn Pro- 
montory. The reason why this view is so famous, he 
discovers, is that as you look back St. Sophia and 
the Mosque of Achmet, with their many minarets, 

3 io JOHN HAY 

are fused into one. Soon Olympus looms up, and 
"velvet hills." Then, the magic passage through the 
^Egean, among islands which live in memory as 
colors pearl, opal, sapphire, amethyst. At Corfu, 
Hay went ashore and spent several enchanted hours. 
"The water," he remarks, "has the same delicate 
green as the Stamboul, if seen directly, blue, if seen 
obliquely." He stayed long enough at Trieste to see 
the city, and to exchange calls with the eccentric 
American Consul, Alexander Thayer, the biographer 
of Beethoven. After running into a snow-storm on 
the Semmering, he reached Vienna in the evening 
of November 23. 

Writing to Nicolay while his impressions were 
still vivid, he sums them up in a few lines: 

"A magnificent day on the Danube to Orsova, 
and another to Rustchuck over the railway all day 
to Varna and by breakfast time the next morning 
we were staring with delight of greenhorns at the 
unparalleled spectacle that greets you as you sail 
down the Bosphorus into Constantinople. That 
closes for me in this world, I verily believe, my sensa- 
tions of great cities. The last is infinitely finer than 
anything I ever imagined. I am pretty sure there is 
nothing that approaches it on earth. We had perfect 
weather June at its prettiest in Illinois, for in- 
stance and this staid with us all the time. We 


passed a day in Asia and climbed Mt. Boulgourlou 
and saw the gates of the morning. We had great 
larks, which I have not time to write." 

In March, he had a glimpse of Italy, and wished 
to go up the Nile; but time, and perhaps money fell 
short; for his salary as Chargi at Vienna was not 

By the spring of 1868, Hay began to think of 
turning homewards. The State Department was 
slow in appointing a minister. It offered the office 
to Horace Greeley, who declined, thus depriving the 
world of a unique sight the editor of the Tribune 
among the archduchesses of the House of Hapsburg. 
Finally, Henry M. Watts, a Pennsylvanian, accepted 
the post, the first article of Pennsylvanian patriot- 
ism being, "Thou shalt decline no office." On Au- 
gust 12, 1868, just a year from the date of his arrival 
in Vienna, Hay resigned. 

Some time before he retired, he sent his former 
chief, John Bigelow, the following letter, which, be- 
tween its banter and seriousness, serves as a charm- 
ing bit of autobiography: 

To John Bigelow 

April 27, 1868 

I had no idea when I came abroad last summer 
that I should be here so long. I thought they would 


fix up the vacuum (abhorred of nature and office- 
seekers) in a few months so I came for a flyer, 
principally because I was a little ashamed of having 
been in Europe nearly two years and having seen 
nothing. I have had a pleasant year of it. There is 
very little work to do at the Legation. I have sinned 
grievously against certain ten-day regulations that 
I have heard of. I have seen all I care to of Prussia, 
Poland, Turkey, and Italy. I have drawn my salary 
with startling punctuality. I have not wearied the 
home office with much despatches. My sleep is in- 
fantine and my appetite wolfish. 

I am satisfied with my administration of this 
'arduous and delicate post/ I believe that is the 
regular shriek of the Radical Press in alluding to the 
Vienna Mission. You and Mr. Adams worked while 
you were in harness. I am not sure but that a serious 
man could always find work in either of those two 
missions. But equally sure am I that no two other 
American diplomats can catch each other's eyes 
without mutual guffaws, unless they have a power 
of facial muscle that would put the Roman augurs 
to shame. Just let me get into Congress once, and 
take one shy at the Diplomatic Appropriation Bill. 

I am very glad I came. Vienna is worth while 
for a year. It is curious and instructive to see their 
people starting off in the awkward walk of political 


babyhood. They know what they want, and I be- 
lieve they will get it. The Aristocracy is furious, and 
the Kaiser a little bewildered at every new triumph 
of the Democratic and liberal principle. But I don't 
think they can stop the machine now though 
they may get their fingers mashed in the cogs. I 
don't think the world ever seemed getting ahead so 
positively and quietly before. Two years ago 
it was another Europe. England has come abreast 
of Bright. Austria is governed by Forty-Eighters. 
Bismarck is becoming appalled by the spirit of Free- 
dom that he suckled with the blood of Sadowa. 
France still lies in her comatose slumber but she 
talks in her sleep and murmurs the Marseillaise. 
And God has made her ruler blind drunk, that his 
Helot antics may disgust the world with despotism. 
If ever, in my green and salad days, I sometimes 
vaguely doubted, I am safe now. I am a Republican 
till I die. When we get to Heaven, we can try a 
Monarchy, perhaps. 



AT the end of October, 1868, Hay sailed for the 
second time into New York Harbor, with a 
larger fund of experience in his head, but with his 
purse no richer and his prospects no brighter. Dur- 
ing much of his stay in Vienna his health had been 
bad, a reason for his wishing to come home. Few rec- 
ords remain of the ensuing months. Presumably, he 
visited Washington, to see whether under the new 
administration Grant was elected President in 
November he might find employment. Neither 
then, nor later, was Hay a professed office-seeker. 
He never had the art of making those in power take 
his talents at their real worth much less, at more 
than their worth, which is the secret of many place- 
holders. An innate refinement, coupled with shyness, 
and an abiding personal dignity, kept him from the 
suppliant's posture. He took it for granted that, as 
he was sufficiently well known by the leaders at 
Washington, they would summon him if they wanted 

Perhaps he was promised another diplomatic bil- 
let, in the overturn which, according to happy cus- 


torn, would begin as soon as the new President was 
inaugurated. Meanwhile, Hay went to Illinois, saw 
his relatives, looked after his tenants, and applied 
himself in earnest to literary work. Lecturing was 
still, although the prestige of the lyceum was waning, 
a profitable profession for those who caught the fancy 
of the public. Hay had long looked upon this as a 
possible resource and he now tested it. On January 
27, 1869, before the Young Men's Christian Asso- 
ciation of Buffalo, he delivered a lecture on "The 
Progress of Democracy in Europe." "Had a fair 
house very attentive and good-natured audi- 
ence," he notes in his Diary. "Was reasonably 
successful especially pleased at the absence of 
trepidation and duration of my voice." Writing to 
Edmund Clarence Stedman a few days later he 
adds: "I have tried an experiment since I saw you 
last. I have faced a large audience and spoken a 
piece without breaking down. I lectured in Buffalo 
and in a few Western towns. I will do more of it 
next winter." 

He closes his letter to Stedman with the following 
hint: " I hope to see you later in the spring. I shall 
pass through New York on my way to Europe. I left 
some unravelled threads of occupation over there, 
and must go over once more my own master now 
and pick them up." 


The "unravelled threads" proved to be his ap- 
pointment as first Secretary of Legation at Madrid. 
On July 29, being already at his post, he jots down 
this memorandum: "Drew on Barings for $146.66 
for month of transit." 

Hay's diplomatic service in Spain fell during a 
dramatic crisis. The profligate queen, Isabella II, 
had been expelled. Republicans of various shades 
were hoping for a republic. Liberal Conservatives 
worked for a monarchy, which the Liberals among 
them wished to make constitutional, while the Cler- 
icals intrigued to restore the old absolutism in which 
they throve. Marshal Serrano was provisional re- 
gent. Hay came just in time to witness the contest, 
and so strongly did he sympathize with the Repub- 
licans that he must have found it hard to keep up 
the feint of diplomatic impartiality. 

The duties of his office consumed much of his time. 
The Minister, General Daniel E. Sickles, was one of 
the typical wastrels who succeeded, partly by rough 
capacity and partly by truculence, in pushing their 
way to the front during the Civil War. Dissolute in 
his personal habits, loose in money matters, and 
unscrupulous in his methods, he rose to the com- 
mand of the Third Corps of the Army of the Poto- 
mac, and, at the battle of Gettysburg, he stationed 
his troops, without orders, in a position which 

brought disaster upon them and threatened the de- 
feat of the Union army. Fortunately for Sickles, he 
had a leg shot off in the battle luck which pre- 
vented his being court-martialed, and enabled him 
to pose during half a century as the hero of Gettys- 
burg. No bullet was ever more beneficent to its vic- 
tim than that which crippled him. At Madrid Hay 
seems to have found him an unexacting chief. 

The Secretary applied himself to learning Spanish; 
but before he attained fluency in that, his knowledge 
of French opened many official doors. He watched 
the political crisis with intense interest. In Paris he 
had seen the growing restlessness of Liberals under 
the Imperial despotism; in Vienna, he saw a consti- 
tutional monarchy emerge from an autocracy; and 
now in Madrid he hoped that his ideal, the Republic, 
would spring into vigorous being. 

A group of statesmen, who would have been re- 
markable in any country, carried on the struggle for 
ascendancy in Spain. Foremost among them was 
Castelar, whose reputation as the advocate of Re- 
publicanism had crossed the Atlantic. Next, ranked 
Prim, "a soldier, conspirator, diplomatist, and born 
ruler; a Cromwell without convictions; a dictator 
who hides his power; a Warwick, who mars Kings 
as tranquilly as he makes them " ; Serrano, the regent, 
dignified and conciliatory; Sagasta, still at the half- 


way stage between politician and statesman; Silvela, 
CAnovas del Castillo: these were leaders whom Hay 
studied as eagerly as a zoologist studies a strange 
fauna. Something in his temperament his love 
of color, perhaps caused him to understand and 
enjoy their passionate oratory. For Castelar he had 
a profound admiration. 

Hay seldom missed an important debate. The 
Cortes, he writes on October i, 1869, " resumed their 
session to-day after a vacation of some months. The 
Diplomatic Body have a little cage holding fifteen. 
We have three cards and one I stole. The seats all 
vacant in the hall. The President comes in in solemn 
procession with the maceros and secretaries. The 
maceros dressed out of Froissart. Rivero wears white 
kids during the whole session. His opening speech. 
Figueras replies. Figuerola, Orense, and Castelar 
sitting together on the top bench of the Extreme 
Left. Figueras, a Western Senator sort of man in 
build and carriage, with a wonderful aptitude of 
speech and good knowledge of parliamentary prac- 
tice. Orense, the noble factor of the play. Rivero 
scolds the Deputies like a schoolmaster, knocking 
them over the knuckles without merci or miseri- 
cordia. The Government sits on a bench distin- 
guished from the rest by being in blue velvet instead 
of crimson. Out of 304 Deputies, not more than 100 


present. The afternoon sun pouring in through the 
window facing the West. Lighting up. Themaceros 
relieving each other. Not many nobles. " 

The next day Hay went to see Castelar. "Found 
him at his own door, coming home with his hands 
full of documents. Walked up with him and had 
a long talk about everything. He speaks French 
fluently learned it in exile in Paris, where he sup- 
ported himself and many others by writing for South 
American papers. He has an exquisite face a soft, 
sweet tenor voice, a winning, and what the Spaniards 
call simpatico, manner. 

"He spoke of Napoleon's sickness and of the hu- 
miliating spectacle of a great nation looking for its 
destiny in the cuvette of an old man. We talked a good 
deal of art and Italy. Of Spain he spoke sadly; he 
seemed to feel that the insurrection in Catalonia 
was premature and ill-advised. He thought there 
were evil days coming for the Republicans in Mad- 
rid. He said, ' We have just had a hard hour's work 
to persuade the party of action not to precipitate an 
insurrection to-night. This would be madness. Mad- 
rid is thoroughly monarchical. It is a city of place- 
holders. The militia is in great majority monarchical. 
There are 10,000 or 12,000 regular troops here. An 
insurrection would be smothered in blood. Yet it is 
hard to keep the fiery young fellows from trying it/ " 


Of Castelar's manner as an orator, Hay gives this 
glowing description: 

"Oct. j, Sunday. The discussion to-day on the 
Suspension of Guarantees occupied all the afternoon 
and will be continued to-morrow. 

"Castelar was superb. His action is something 
marvellous. He uses more gesticulation than any 
orator or actor I have ever heard. His voice is, as I 
suspected, rather rich and musical than strong, and 
he uses it so remorselessly that it is apt to suffer in an 
hour or so. But his matter is finer than his manner. 
I have never imagined the possibility of such fluency 
of speech. Never for one instant is the wonderful 
current of declamation checked by the pauses, the 
hesitations, the deliberations that mark all Anglo- 
Saxon debate. His whole speech is delivered with pre- 
cisely the energy and fluency that Forrest exhibits 
in the most rapid passages of his most muscular 
plays; and when you consider that not a word of 
this is written or prepared, but struck off instantly 
in the very heat and spasms of utterance, it seems 
little short of miraculous. The most laborious con- 
ning and weighing and filing of the most fastidious 
rhetorician could not produce phrases of more ex- 
quisite harmony, antitheses more sharp and brilliant, 
metaphors more perfectly fitting all uttered with 
a feverish rapidity that makes the despair of stenog- 


raphers. Then his logic is as faultless as his rhetoric. 
He never says a foolish or careless word. All history 
is at his finger's ends. There is no fact too insignifi- 
cant for his memory none too stale to do service. 
They are all presented with such felicity and grace 
too, that you scarcely see how solid they are." 

Again and again Hay returns to enthusiastic praise 
of Castelar. " His action is as violent as Forrest," he 
writes Nicolay. "His style is as florid as Gibbon. . . . 
He never writes a speech. Yet every sentence, even 
in a running debate, when all the government hounds 
are yelping at him at once, is as finished and as 
elegantly balanced as if he had pondered all a rainy 
Sunday over it. I am afraid he will cease to be the 
Republican idol before long. He has too much 
sense and integrity to follow the lead of the Socialist 

Of three other Spanish orators Hay has sketches, 
hasty but penetrating. 

"Sagasta, Ministro de la Gubernacion, greatly dis- 
tinguished himself on Monday. He defended the 
Government, especially himself, with wonderful vigor 
and malice. He is the hardest hitter in the Cortes. 
Everybody calls him a scamp, and everybody seems 
to admire him, nevertheless. He is a sort of Disraeli 
lithe, active, full of energy and hate tormented 
by the Opposition to the proper point of hot anger, 


he made a defensive offensive that enchanted the 
Government benches. 

"Silvela also made a good speech or two but 
Silvela is rather too good a fellow for this kind of 
work. He is very sincere and candid, but lacks the 
Devil, which makes Sagasta so audacious and Prim 
so cool. 

"Prim's speech Tuesday evening after Castelar 
had announced the intention of the Republicans to 
retire, was a masterpiece. He begged them to re- 
consider he was frank, open, soldierly; he begged 
them to stay, and threatened them with severe meas- 
ures if they went he was not savage and insulting 
like Sagasta nor phrasy like Silvela; but he was 
the perfection of enigma, as always. His speech 
was powerful and impressive in its deep simplicity 
and greatly affected Castelar and the Republicans. 
Castelar answered in the same tone of exquisite 
courtesy, rejecting the advice which was coupled 
with a threat. The law passed, and the Republican 
Deputies left the Chamber." 

Even latter-day readers, ignorant of the intri- 
cacies of Spanish politics in 1869, cannot fail to enjo> 
these portraits of historic figures. What would we 
not give to have a similar series, sketched by a for- 
eigner as receptive, keen, and detached as Hay, of the 
leaders of the French Assembly eighty years earlier? 


The diplomatic business which chiefly concerned 
the Legation had to do with Porto Rico and with 
Cuba. The latter island was in insurrection, and 
President Grant signed a proclamation recognizing 
the Cubans as belligerents; but Hamilton Fish, his 
Secretary of State, wisely deferred issuing it. At 
Madrid, Sickles and Hay would have gone further 
and had the United States Government interfere in 
behalf of Cuban independence. 

"The amount of talk we have done since we came 
here is something portentous," Hay writes Nicolay 
on October 7, 1869. 

" I have been always on hand as a medium of com- 
munication, and so have seen more of the gros bon- 
nets than usually falls to the lot of secretaries. We 
have a good enough time of it; have done nothing but 
show our amicable intentions. The Government here 
is crazy to accept our offered mediation, but does 
not dare. The cession of Cuba to the Cubans would 
be a measure too frightfully unpopular for the Gov- 
ernment to face in its present uncertain tenure. 
Still, if it continues to grow stronger, as now seems 
probable, it may take the bit in its teeth and do 
something after a while." 

Nearly four months later, Hay reports again to 

" I have no news for you. This Legation has abso- 


lutdy nothing of importance now in its hands. There 
is a great deal of tiresome routine work which em- 
ploys the fingers more than the brain, and, by way 
of keeping the circulation regular, there is dancing 
enough to keep the feet from rusting. I am getting 
rather tired of it, and shall begin to plume my wings 
for flight some time in the spring. I am sorry Sickles 
has not had a better chance, but nothing was possible 
with Fish's system of platonic bullying. I am afraid 
Cuba is gone. This Government wants to sell out 
but dares not, and has no power to put a stop to the 
atrocities on the island. The only thing left to our 
Government is to do nothing and keep its mouth 
shut; or interfere to stop the horrors in Cuba on the 
ground of humanity, or the damage resulting to 
American interests." (January 30, 1870). 

Hay kept his Diary without regard to sequence. 
In the midst of the abstract of the daily happen- 
ings, he would insert the draft of a letter to be sent 
or the copy of one received ; or he would outline a 
poem, or set down maxims and reflections. Here is 
a page of observations from the Madrid period: 

" Indolent people imagine they would like to be 
busy. Industrious people know they would enjoy 
being idle. 

"The English servant is a statuesque image of 
propriety. The French a sympathizing but respect- 


ful friend. The Spanish and Italian have the sub- 
ordination of children. An American revenges him- 
self on fate by insolence. 

"Americans in Europe waste time enormously in 
calculating when the mail will arrive. A mail is like 
a baby you can't hurry or retard it by talking 
about it. 

"Politicians like corals build and die: others suc- 

" Mad agitators imagine they lead, as the people 
come after. 

"When Sherman marched to the sea, Bummers 
were miles in advance. They carry no baggage of 
character or responsibility and so go fast. Rousseau 
held a Moses necessary." 

John Hay's best chronicle of his life in Spain is 
contained in his " Castilian Days," in which he com- 
bines, in finely balanced proportion, description, in- 
formation, and personal impressions. In those pages 
you learn how minutely Hay studied the Spaniards. 
He takes you to the theater and the bull-fights, to 
the churches and the palaces and the Prado Gallery; 
he visits Segovia and Toledo, the Escorial and AlcalcL 
Along the way, he sketches in characteristic figures, 
beggars, priests, peasants, nobles. And all the while 
he pours out his lively comment. 


He wrote these papers during the first months of 
1870; and though the range of his knowledge and the 
deep relief and variety of his background prove that 
he carefully prepared himself by reading Spanish 
history and literature, he never rouses in you the 
suspicion of having crammed for the occasion. What- 
ever notes he made for the preparation of his "Cas- 
tilian Days" he probably destroyed: for they have 
not come to light. His Diary also contains only the 
account of his early meeting with the Spanish states- 
men, most of which I have quoted above. Very few 
letters remain. Yet in spite of this gap, the book itself 
is the best memorial of his stay in Spain. 

On May i, 1870, Hay presented his resignation to 
General Sickles, regretting that "pecuniary circum- 
stances" compelled him to retire. This reason en- 
tered into his decision, and perhaps if he had had 
independent means he might have continued in the 
service; but a desire to return to the more stirring 
life of America, coupled with the conviction that he 
had completed his training in Europe, chiefly in- 
fluenced him. 

He did not quit Madrid until summer. A final 
letter, written on June 30, contains a bit of autobio- 
graphic retrospect, and notes of an excursion to To- 
ledo, which he took in company with congenial old 
friends from Washington. 


To Miss Harriet K. Loring 

I have a curious year to look back upon more 
entirely out of the world than any since I came into 
it. ... I went with Mrs. and Miss Hooper and Miss 
S. to Toledo, and had a few halcyon days, favored 
by fate, weather, and other accessories, in that deli- 
cious old town. I have rarely had such larks, the 
ladies went crazy sketching adorable doorways, and 
I sat by, on the shady side, and chaffed the pic- 
turesque beggars grouped around in the rags of the 
period. I felt the coil of cares slipping away from 
me, and leaving me young and appreciative again 
as when 

11 1 roamed a young Westerner, o'er the green bluff, 
And climbed thy steep summit, oh, Warsaw, of mud." 

For the first time since I can remember I have 
been busy this year, and it does not suit my com- 
plexion. There is a good deal to do in the Legation, 
and I have imposed a good deal of work upon myself 
beside, having gotten interested in Spanish history. 
I have a veritable workshop for the fellows who know 
things. I cannot conceive how a man like Mr. Mot- 
ley should have preferred England, with its pitiful 
annoyances, to Austria with its quiet and its archives. 
I should like to read about twenty years. The first 
ten would be necessary to reach the proper point of 


humility, and the last one might hope to gain some- 
thing substantial. 

"I am glad I committed the folly of coming/' he 
confides to Nicolay. "I have seen a great deal and 
learned something. I speak the language well 
enough to be understood, but not well enough to be 
taken for a Spaniard d Dieu ne plaise." 

Before he bade good-bye to Spain, Hay had the 
disappointment of seeing the Republican cause 
there founder, and the Spanish Cortes looking Eu- 
rope over for a candidate to the Bourbon throne; 
and before he took steamer for home, the Prussians 
were already engaged in a war which, though he 
little suspected it, was to result not only in the check- 
ing of Republican ideals, but in the revival of 
Authority and Privilege, thinly veiled under modern 
conditions and entrenched behind the magnificently 
organized military despotism of Germany. 



WHEN John Hay landed at the New York 
dock on a September morning in 1870, he 
was already thirty-two years old, carrying in his 
memory a treasure of experiences which few could 
match, but counting little, very little money in his 
purse or in the bank. His travels had made him 
what from early boyhood he had longed to be, a citi- 
zen of the world ; equally at home in London or in 
Paris, in Vienna or in Madrid. To make a living was 
now, as it had been since 1865, his first concern: be- 
cause the American community still regarded bread- 
winning as the normal condition of every man, 
whether the bread he won were plain and crusty, 
or accompanied by those luxuries which are the 
necessaries of the rich. 

Hay knew himself too well to suppose that he 
could ever succeed as a money-maker. His talents, 
rare and sparkling and delightful, procured for him 
the friendships and intimacies which wealth cannot 
buy; but these commodities were not listed in Wall 
Street. By instinct an artist, he could not be satis- 
fied with the Bohemian life in which poor painters, 


writers, poets, sculptors and journalists forgot their 
poverty. He mixed with them, but he was never 
wholly of them; for a strand of fastidiousness ran 
through his nature, and Bohemia would not be Bo- 
hemia if it were fastidious. Dignity, too, character- 
ized Hay from his youth; and while he might be 
jovial among his chosen cronies, he was constitu- 
tionally shy, and never would permit liberties to 
be taken with him. "No matter how intimate you 
were," his best friend told me, "or how merry the oc- 
casion, nobody ever slapped John Hay on the back." 

He came home in 1870 expecting to go to Warsaw 
for a while, and then, unless something better turned 
up, to seek an editorial position on a newspaper. 
Possibly, he might support himself by lecturing. 
But journalism, the refuge of whoever can hold a 
pen, seemed to him the most promising make-shift, 
especially as he had already, during one of the in- 
tervals between his European trips, served as an edi- 
tor of the Chicago Journal. 

Going uptown after landing the custom-house 
inspector had no quarrel with him Hay called 
on some of his friends. Toward evening, he fell in 
with Whitelaw Reid, and they dined together at the 
Union League Club. Then, as the story runs, Hay 
accompanied Reid to the Tribune office, for a last 
chat before taking the midnight train for the West. 


On his table Reid found the freshest despatches, 
some of which would serve as texts for editorial com- 
ment. One, containing important news from Europe, 
Reid handed to Hay, asking him what should be said 
about it. Hay volunteered to deal with it himself, sat 
down at a table, and, in very quick time, he gave Reid 
a leader which overjoyed him. The next day, when 
Horace Greeley saw it, he said: " I have read a mil- 
lion editorials, and this is the best of them all." 

Such is the legend unverifiable in its minutest 
details, but undoubtedly true in its substance of 
John Hay's joining the staff of the New York Trib- 
une: for it is almost needless to say that, with Hor- 
ace Greeley and Whitelaw Reid both so enthusias- 
tic over his maiden effort, they urged him to stay 
in New York and serve the great newspaper. 

The invitation attracted Hay, but before accept- 
ing it he wished to see his family in Illinois. He was 
also, apparently, considering the possibility of join- 
ing a Chicago newspaper. On his way out he wrote 
this letter: 

To Whitelaw Reid 

Sep. 29, 1870. 


I leave here in a day or two for Warsaw, Illinois, 
where I shall spend a few weeks with my family. I 


shall then probably go on to New York, and shall 
not fail to call upon you. 

I thank you most cordially for your kind and satis- 
factory letter. 

The Republican was hopelessly water-logged, and 
the present transfer is a sauve qui pent of the owners. 

If you should by accident have anything to say 
to me before I see you, my address is always Care 
Charles E. Hay, Springfield, Illinois. 

Nicolay desires me to convey his kind remem- 
brances to you. 

Thence Hay journeyed to his old home, where he 
took up again the simple, unpretentious life with as 
much relish as if he were not a licensed cosmopolite. 

To J. G. Nicolay 

October 13, 1870. 

I have just received the enclosed from W. It is 
a model of holy and unselfish anger against foul and 
infamous outrage. I have written him a letter of 
cordial sympathy and you will doubtless do the same. 
The article he refers to, I wrote after you left Chi- 
cago, for the N. Y. Tribune. I have not seen it. 

I flitted on Tuesday after shipping my charming 
wards. I found Warsaw with a broad grin on its 


face at the lovely grape crop. My father made 1200 
gallons of good wine, and even my shy little vine- 
yard made its debut with 240. 

I wish you could have been here and eaten grapes 
with me during the past week. They are of a most 
exquisite flavor and sweeter than I have ever seen 
them anywhere in the world. Especially the much 
abused Catawba, which people were thinking of 
ploughing up, has nobly asserted itself and produced 
a superb vintage. We are now through, and ready 
for the frost when it comes. 

The weather is lovely. The great river is wrapped 
at daybreak in a morning gown of fog, but soon 
brightens up, and the light has a regular spree on the 
many-colored foliage of the hills and the islands. 

I am doing nothing and find it easy to take. I 
walk a great deal and eat for several. I have gained 
two pounds in weight the first week. 

I have a very cordial letter from Howells saying 
he thinks my decision the best one; that the publi- 
cation in the Magazine will not hurt the book, but 
will be a positive advantage to it. So my mind is at 
rest on that score. 

On his return to New York, Hay accepted White- 
law Reid's invitation to the Tribune. His accession 
came at a turning-point in the career of that journal. 


Greeley still kept his post of editor-in-chief, but the 
work of editing was done by a staff composed chiefly 
of "Greeley's young men," the most remarkable 
group of editorial writers which any American news- 
paper had seen. Few of them were over forty; two 
or three were under thirty; 1 all had known the stimu- 
lus of the Civil War; all spoke the language of 1870, 
which made that of 1860 seem obsolete. Whitelaw 
Reid virtually managed the paper, although Greeley 
still shaped its general policy. The venerable George 
Ripley conducted the department of literary criti- 
cism; Hassard was musical critic; Bayard Taylor 
wrote on anything which touched his miscellaneous 
interest; Bromley had already approved himself an 
all-round journalist of high rank, and William Winter 
had begun his unparalleled career as dramatic critic; 
Smalley, having achieved notoriety as a war corres- 
pondent in the Rebellion and at the battle of Sadowa, 
was organizing the Tribune's news bureau in London. 
Of them all, Greeley declared Hay was the most bril- 
liant. We do not hear that the veteran and the new- 
comer ever discussed their meeting at the Niagara 
Conference; if they did, Greeley bore no grudge. 

1 The veterans were George Ripley, literary editor, born in 1802; 
Charles T. Congdon, born in 1821, and Bayard Taylor, born in 1825. 
The birth dates of the others were Noah Brooks, 1830; Isaac H. 
Bromley, 1833; George W. Smalley, 1833; I R- G. Hassard and Wil- 
liam Winter, 1836; Whitelaw Reid, 1837; John Hay, 1838; Mont- 
gomery Schuyler, 1843. 


To identify Hay's editorial contributions to the 
Tribune during the four years and more of his serv- 
ice on its staff would not be very fruitful, even were 
it possible. Although the paper had ceased to be 
Greeley's personal organ, editorial writers followed, 
of course, the general views of the manager, but the 
public seldom recognized the author of this or that 
article. The editorial "we" leveled alike the brilliant 
and the commonplace. If anonymity dimmed the 
fame of the individual, it also lessened his respon- 

And yet among his fellows the special correspon- 
dent or the editor enjoyed his full measure of glory. 
This was true of Hay, whose reputation seems to have 
been won almost immediately in the sanctums of 
New York. 

The following letter, written soon after he had 
buckled on his harness, describes his work: 

To J. G. Nicolay 

December 12, 1870. 

I have delayed writing for a few days, knowing you 
had seen Reid, and that he had told you I was alive. 
I am living at the Astor House, which is now run on 
the European plan, and gives me a room on rather 
reasonable terms. I am working daily on the Tribune, 
writing editorials, or, as it is here technically called, 


brevier. I get salary enough to pay my board and 

I cannot regard it as a successful experiment as 
yet, though Reid and the rest seem satisfied. I do 
not find myself up to the work of writing so much 
every day on a given theme. But the Tribune force 
is sufficient to allow a good deal of subdivision, and 
so far I have written just what I please. . . . 

Reid talks of sending me to Washington not as 
reporter, but as a sort of heavy-swell correspondent; 
whereat I rather reluct. I do not like to blame and 
I mortally hate to praise. Which somewhat narrows 
a letter-writer's field. 

Leaving Hay's entry into authorship for the next 
chapter, I quote the most pithy of the letters which 
pertain to his work on the Tribune. 

To Whitdaw Reid 

Monday, 1870. 

I have read all I could find for three or four years, 1 
and don't believe I can do much worse. But why 
do you talk of columns and halves? the foregoing 
ones have not averaged a half. However, I will go 

1 Files of the New York Tribune, which Hay had gone through 
in order to familiarize himself with its methods and its treatment 
of recent history. 


to-night see with what eyes are left me, and write 
till the time of stereotypers comes and the voice of 
the devil is heard in the hall. 

I am so seedy that I will go home for a nap, and 
come out this evening so fresh that a daisy would 
look blasee beside me. 

Dios le guarde a V. muchos anas. 

On October 8, 1871, the Widow O'Leary's cow 
kicked over a kerosene lamp and started the con- 
flagration which nearly destroyed Chicago. As soon 
as the magnitude of the fire was understood, distant 
newspapers hurried their correspondents to the spot, 
to report it. Hay went for the New York Tribune. 
The next two letters describe the difficulties that he 

To Whitelaw Reid 

CHICAGO, 12 Oct. 1871. 
Thursday evening. 

I arrived here this morning 38 hours from New 
York, and found Keenan * at the telegraph office. 
He got here last night and prepared a despatch which 
they would not send. Stager said if he sent for any- 
body he would for his friend Bennett of the Herald 
(who has had two men on the ground since Tuesday), 

1 Henry F. Keenan, then on the Tribune staff: author of Trajan, 
The Money-Makers, etc 


but he would not do it, for them, nor for us, nor any- 
body. We worried them until morning, and Smith 
of the Associated Press at last consented to send 
clandestinely 1000 words if we would restrict our- 
selves to that. I wrote a despatch with which Keenan 
has gone to the office. I think I will send no more 
letters by telegraph. We will telegraph what seems 
desirable for a day or two, and write letters to go by 

P.S. Keenan has just returned. Stager is inex- 
orable would only let my letter go to the Asso- 
ciated Press, refused to let the Herald's go even 
that way, says they are several thousand messages 
behind, and will permit no special despatches to go 
at present; eight wires are broken. 

I will go on writing. I will decide to-morrow if 
there is anything requiring heroic treatment. If so, 
Mr. Keenan will go to Detroit (the stations nearer 
are under Stager's control), and telegraph. Other- 
wise you must rely on the Associated Press for news 
unless the restriction is let up and upon us for 

To Whitelaw Reid 

[CHICAGO, 15 Oct. 1871.] Sunday. 

This ends my labors for the present. I send a des- 
patch to-day, and Keenan makes up the news for it. 


To-night, if I can get away, I will go to Springfield. 
If anything of sufficient interest transpires there to- 
morrow, I will send it. Tuesday, to Warsaw for a day 
or two, and then New York again. 

I have done as well as I could. I have a clean con- 
science. Your condemnation will not gall my withers. 
I have given the Great Moral Organ 1 16 hours a day 
ever since I arrived. 

I think it due to Keenan to say he has done all 
anybody could do. His failure to get off a despatch 
on the night he arrived was inevitable. Since that he 
has been ahead. Friday he managed admirably and 
had the wires nearly the whole evening. He made a 
favorable impression in the telegraph and newspaper 
offices. The Herald had five men who went off to 
New York in relays and got up their despatches on 
the way. I don't think that is worth while. Keenan 
will stay a few days and then report for relief to 

Journalism makes insatiate demands upon its 
votaries; it often has slight scruples as to propri- 
ety; but the following letter shows that it did not 
quite succeed in turning John Hay into a society 

1 The Tribune had been nicknamed the "Great Moral Organ/ 9 
and its staff accepted that title. 


To Whitelaw Reid 

[WASHINGTON, December, 1870.] 

Here is a sketchy letter with nothing in it which 
you can use or kill. 

I have had no chance for any decent work. I wrote 
no account of the wedding 1 because the family as- 
sumed to be dead agin it Mrs. Sprague 2 having 
spoken with some severity of Howard J. Q. for hav- 
ing taken notes. I do not do these things, but would 
have gushed if you had especially wished it. I gave 
Mr. White the points the night before. I found 
Mrs. S. had accepted for me invitations for Friday and 
Saturday, so that instead of being with you Satur- 
day night, I shall not report until Monday morning. 

So many people have spoken of you and sent 
greetings that my paper would not hold their names. 
The Chief Justice 8 and the ladies were sorry not to 
see you. He said the Great Moral Organ had im- 
proved enormously under your management and 
was now easily at the head of the dailies. Spofford 4 
also spoke of the excellence of the paper. 

In a street car the other night I met Zach Chand- 
ler. 6 He says Greeley is all right he hopes that 

The wedding of Miss Chase to Mr. William Hoyt. 

Mrs. Kate Chase Sprague was Miss Chase's sister. 

S. P. Chase. 

Ainsworth R. Spofford, Librarian of Congress. 

Zachary Chandler, United States Senator from Michigan. 


you are all right. He knows I am all right (interroga- 
tively). He says the Tribune must support the Ad- 
ministration and not get switched off. Asks if it will 
do any good for him to go up to New York and 
talk to you, and H. G. I said, 'No! write! Your 
name and vigorous style would have as much effect 
as your personal presence.' 

I am between Celery and Cherubs. I dine with 
Sumner Sunday. 

I will take your orders when I get back as to 
whether I shall write an R. article or do up P. The 
statue is worse than I expected. 

The Tribune used the versatile Hay in many ways. 
His first-hand acquaintance with European public 
men, and with politics abroad, made him the special 
warder of foreign topics. He not only read the 
Continental journals, but also secured the collabo- 
ration of such celebrities as Castelar, whose articles 
he translated and of the French novelist, Ars&ne 
Houssaye, who was then in high vogue. 

To Whitelaw Reid 

[NEW YORK, n March, 1875.! 

Here is a letter of Houssaye's which ought to be 
printed as soon as there is room; not must but desir- 


He sent a column or two of puffs of his ball. 1 I 
think what I have put together at the end of this 
letter would be well enough. The rest your Nuevo 
Mundo might like, and I have put it back in the 

Enclosed is a private note to you which I have 
translated. He wants some money. 

I have another in my pocket and must take an 
early day to translate it. 

The projector of the Chicago Inter-Ocean is the 
subject of the next note, brief but not lacking a char- 
acteristic touch. 

To Whitelaw Reid 

Feb. 16, 1872. 

J. Young Scammon of Chicago was here this 
morning, and said he might call again during the 
day. If he comes, give him welcome. You know who 
he is one of the salt. He is starting a new paper 
in Chicago, and wants advice. He has wads of money 
more than he will have when his paper is a year 
older. He is coming with me to the Century to-mor- 
row night. 

The Presidential year 1872 saw a political upheaval 
which, if it had been led by a man of command- 

1 Houssaye had recently given a luxurious ball which served Paris 
as a three-days' wonder. 


ing influence, might have hastened the end of the 
evil methods of Reconstruction: but Horace Gree- 
ley, the Democratic candidate who opposed Presi- 
dent Grant, was neither a sound political thinker, 
nor a magnetic political standard-bearer. On being 
nominated by the Democrats at Baltimore for Presi- 
dent, he withdrew from the Tribune, which Reid, 
however, kept steadfastly loyal to him. The Lib- 
eral Republicans, or bolters, who hoped to work a 
purge, found themselves dished when the Democrats 
both stole their platform and chose the impossible 
Greeley to defend it. During that summer, Hay took 
a trip West, and reported on the situation to Reid. 

To Whitelaw Reid 

August i, 1872. 

I got here last night with a horrible cold. Start to- 
morrow for Warsaw. I spent a day at Saratoga, and 
there, just before the train started, Henry Richmond 
told me in strict confidence of the tribulation of the 
Democratic party in their hunt for a governor [of 
New York State]. Kernan is a candidate, and he 
thinks that his being a Catholic and an Irishman may 
be a disadvantage in view of the fact that Hoffman 
is to be ruled off by this element. He thinks that 
Church is the best man, and that Church will run, 


if there is a strong appeal made to him. It would be 
a great personal sacrifice, for Church is a poor man 
and needs his salary as Judge. But he thinks, if he 
were asked on behalf of Mr. Greeley, he would yield 
and run. This, at his request, I told him I would 
communicate to you. Think of it, and do what you 
may think expedient. 

I met at Cleveland none but Grant men, who of 
course all assured me that there was no Liberal move- 
ment in the State. I think myself there is not much. 

In this State it is very different. A large propor- 
tion of the best men in the State not only promi- 
nent men, but captains of tens in the counties are 
heartily enlisted in the work. The organization is ra- 
pidly getting into shape. The German vote is aston- 
ishingly strong and united. In this city it is almost 
unanimous. There is a good Liberal Republican 
vote in most of the counties, which is estimated at 
ten per cent of the entire Grant vote. I think this 
rather sanguine. But there is a pretty bad Democratic 
bolt in some districts. In Pike, 150 Democrats have 
signed a manifesto against Greeley. In Winnebago 
there is some discontent. But there will be an excel- 
lent fight made. If we carry Pennsylvania and Indi- 
ana the prospects here will be vastly increased. 

My little Brother is President of the First Ward 
Club in Springfield, and my Uncle is President of the 


General Grant organization. Alas! Alas! for life is 
thorny and youth is vain. 

To Whitelaw Reid 

WARSAW, August 4 [1872]. 

... I have been at home three days recovering 
from my cold, and am now pretty well. The weather 
is hot, but my appetite wholesome. I go to bed at 
9, and sleep like a bear. I shall come back prepared 
to introduce this somnolent tendency into the col- 
umns of the Tribune. 

The good work is going on beautifully here. The 
Liberals comprise some of the very best men in the 
country and the bulk of the Germans and Democrats. 
They seem hurt when I intimate a doubt of their 
carrying the State. They feel sure of it, and have the 
figures to show for their faith. It all depends upon 
the solidness of the Democratic vote. The Liberals 
and Democrats will reduce the Republican majority 
of 50,000 to nothing at all. If the Democrats vote 
solid, or even lose less than 5 per cent, the State is 
safe for Greeley. Every Democrat I have seen says 
they will not lose two per cent and considers even 
that a liberal estimate. 

Carry the news to Hiram! 1 

We are all still in the dark about North Carolina, 

1 Hiram Barney. 


but expect to know definitely to-morrow. But at all 
events it is a great success for Greeley. 1 I suppose 
that even at Long Branch * there is some recognition 
of nasty weather ahead. 

Some of these days you must come out here with 
me. You are growing such a swell that nothing short 
of palaces and houris will content you. But I think 
you might like a day or two among our bluffs and 
vineyards, and my father and mother and sister 
already regard you as a personal friend. 

My sister (who is a Greeley man of great energy) 
has just sailed into the room announcing definitely 
our victory in N.C. 

Carry the news to Hiram. 

I will go to tea. 

The Lord continue his liking for you. 

To Whitelaw Reid 

November 27, 1872. 

I have just received your letter of the 2ist and 
am of course greatly concerned at the news it con- 

1 The country still believed that North Carolina had been carried 
by the Liberals as first announced, and most of those actively con- 
nected with the management of the campaign continued to believe 
that they had actually carried the State. They subsequently claimed 
that this fraud, as they considered it, changed the drift, which up to 
that time had been strongly in favor of Greeley. 

1 President Grant's summer residence. 


tains. 1 I had seen a paragraph of the sort in the pa- 
pers here, but had imagined it a malicious exaggera- 
tion. It is a most serious matter for all of us. Unless 
he soon recovers, there will be infinite trouble. . . . 

I had a mixed sort of journey. I was snowed up on 
the Erie Road and spent Sunday in Cleveland. Ar- 
rived in Chicago Monday, the most terribly cold day 
I remember. The weather and the Epizoo, 2 every- 
body warned me, would destroy my audience, but 
had a very fine one and very amiable. I spent a day 
in Springfield. En passant, Scammon talked Inter- 
Ocean to me, but I bited not. Since I came home, 
five days of the loveliest weather I ever saw. I lec- 
tured last night gratis for our Free Library, and the 
whole population turned out. I start back next week 
lecture at Cleveland on the 5th December, and 
expect to be in New York on the Qth or loth. My 
Young Christian talk is preying on my mind, but 
I am getting along with it. It will be the dullest and 
heaviest of all. I have no vivacity left not a vi- 
vacity to my back. I shall never recover my tone 
until St. Paul 8 goes to 70. There is some wonder- 
ful bedevilment going on with it evidently, what, 

1 Shortly after the election Horace Greeley broke down, physi- 
cally and mentally. He died on November 29. 

* The epizoOty was prevalent through a large part of the ooun* 
try at that time. 

1 Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway stock. 


I can't imagine. If J. brings me out, I will take care 
of yours and J.'s. If I am swamped, I can go through 
bankruptcy, and that is said to be an edifying expe- 

I will be in Springfield next week, and will try to 
see Harlan l and Palmer. 1 My uncle was elected to 
the Legislature after declining to run and refusing 
the nomination. Cullom * will be speaker, and wants 
to be Senator. But at present there seems no pros- 
pect of beating Oglesby. Logan 4 and Oglesby! 6 
Par nobile I 

I sleep and eat very well. I really need a month or 
two of idleness. But I can't stay any longer. Please 
tell Mr. Nicholson to send my mail up to Dec. 4 to 
the Kennard House, Cleveland. Retain all after 

The next letter to Reid from which I quote was 
written in the mayor's office, Springfield, Illinois, on 

1 James Harlan (1820-99), United States Senator from Iowa, 1855- 
65. 1867-73. 

1 General John M. Palmer (1817-1900), Governor of Illinois, 
1868; Liberal Republican candidate in 1872; United States Senator, 


9 Shelby M. Cullom (1829-1913); member of Congress, 1865- 
71; Governor of Illinois, 1877-83; Senator, 1883-1913. 

4 General John A. Logan (1826-86), member of Congress from 
Illinois, 1859-62, 1867-71; Senator, 1871-77, 1879-86; unsuccessful 
Republican candidate for Vice-President in 1884. 

* Richard J. Oglesby (1824-99), United States Senator, 1873-79; 
thrice Governor of Illinois. 


September 3, 1873, his brother, Charles E. Hay, 
being the mayor. 

Thus far have I marched without accident. I was 
to have gone in to Warsaw to-day, but my brother 
was trying some firemen for bathing a YELLOW dog in 
kerosene and then setting him on fire. I am happy to 
state they no longer belong to the Fire Department. 

I thought I was going to have cool weather, but 
to-day it is tropical. The cholera has burst out again 
with great fury in the Southern part of the State, but 
M. le Maire says he has pared its claws here. He 
hauled up several of the richest and oldest citizens 
here for not policing their property including his 
own grave and reverend uncle. It did not amuse 

If you can find a minute in the intervals of the mad 
delight of house-hunting, please tell me how things 
are. . . . 

By the way, I met at Barlow's two of the most 
interesting people I have ever seen in my life; Lau- 
rence Oliphant 1 and his wife, who was a L'Estrange. 
It is a combination I have never seen before, the 
highest knowledge of society and the world, com- 
bined with a mystic and passionate philanthropy. He 

1 Laurence Oliphant (1829-88), journalist, war correspondent, 
novelist, member of Parliament, who, with his mother and wife, fell 
under the baleful spell of Thomas L. Harris, a "prophet" 


talked to me in a way that indicated he would like to 
write occasionally for the Tribune. I think it might 
be worth while to ask him. He is the author of 
that brilliant book "Piccadilly," and was for a long 
time Paris correspondent of the London Times. He 
knows everybody and everything. Dick Taylor was 
there, and said he wanted to meet you. Dana l was 
there, but I don't recall his saying anything of the 

Not long after this, Hay became engaged. 

On August 14, 1873, he writes to Whitelaw Reid: 
11 1 made a toilsome journey to Sharon last Satur- 
day and came back Monday. Next Saturday I am 
going to Saratoga, and will return Saturday night or 
Sunday morning. I am getting completely bunged up 
by my travels have got a good, honest catarrh 
which will last a week or two longer. But I am sus- 
tained and soothed. ... I wish I could see you in 
the same predicament. The fact of being in love, 
and seeing a good woman in love also, is a wonder- 
fully awakening thing. I would not have died before 
this happened for a great deal of coin. Get well, and 
then get engaged. Time flies." 

Hay lost no time in letting his old friend Nicolay 
into the secret. 

1 Charles A. Dana, editor of the New York Sun. 


To J. G. Nicolay 

August 27, 1873. 

I ought not to leave you to learn from strangers 
that I am engaged to be married to Miss Clara 
Stone, of Cleveland, Ohio. I do not know when it 
will be. There will be an internecine war before Mrs. 
Stone consents to give up her daughter wherein 
I sympathize with her. Before many centuries I shall 
win. She is a very estimable young person large, 
handsome and good. I never found life worth while 

Miss Stone was the daughter of Amasa and Julia 
Gleason Stone. Her father, a prosperous financier 
of Cleveland, became a chief benefactor of Western 
Reserve University in that city. 1 Hay and Miss 
Stone were married there on February 4, 1874. 

" I am going to be married," he wrote E. M. Stan- 
ton on January 8, 1874. " If you want to see the last 
of me, be at Mr. Stone's, 1 13 Euclid Avenue, Cleve- 
land, Ohio, on the evening of the 4th of February, and 
I will show you a lovely woman 2 in a white dress 
and a man in a black coat, who is now and always 

Yours faithfully." 

1 He founded Adalbert College in memory of his son, Adelbert 
Stone, who was drowned while an undergraduate at Yale College. 

1 " Her name for tlu's month only is Miss Clara L. Stone. 1 ' (Written 
as a foot-note by Hay.) 


For more than a year after their marriage, the 
Hays lived in New York and he continued his rela- 
tions with the Tribune. Mr. Stone, however, whose 
health was infirm, wished to have them near him in 
Cleveland; and when Hay's own health was im- 
paired, by night work on the Tribune, his abandon- 
ment of journalism followed. 




JOHN HAY may be said to have grown up with 
a pen in his hand. Endowed with an unusually 
delicate suggestibility, he imitated, like other youths, 
without being aware of it, the writers, prin- 
cipally the poets, who delighted him. But besides 
this endowment, he possessed an authentic talent of 
self-expression, and the desire to use it. In those ear- 
lier poems of his, we see reflections of Poe, of Byron, 
of Shelley, and of others. Always facile, and equally 
at his ease in prose and in verse, he turned off occa- 
sional pieces, one of which, " Carrier's Address to the 
Patrons of the Daily Illinois State Journal, Spring- 
field, January I, 1861," has been preserved. Seldom 
can the newspaper carriers of any town have pre- 
sented to their patrons so remarkable an effusion. It 
glows with patriotism: it greets liberty, at home and 
abroad; it salutes Italy, recently emancipated, in a 
stanza like this: 

How long! how still Italia slept, 
While hireling hordes above her reigned, 

How sad the tears that freedom wept 
To see her holiest shrines profaned. 


Into the midnight of her dreams 
There stole a whisper faint and far, 

And flushed them with a light that gleams 
On lands beneath the Western star! 

And as the tender morning broke 
In glory on the Tuscan sea, 

The sleeper murmured, as she woke, 


And Hay prophesies, as very few of his elders 
would have dared to do then: 

Though sullen fate and traitor rage 
A few brief days the fight prolong 

Our LINCOLN'S name shall light the age, 
In history's scroll and poet's song! 

Among Hay's papers is a copy of Harper's Weekly 
for October 19, 1 86 1, in which appears a story, " Red, 
White, and Blue." This also may be by him, for it 
has his exuberance and his clarity; but it is unsigned. 
During the war, and afterwards on his diplomatic 
travels, he often relieved his emotions in a poem. 
Several of these are sprinkled through his notebooks, 
the handwriting being almost illegible from the jolt- 
ing of the train. That he sowed these in some of the 
magazines and papers of the time is possible, but I 
have been unable to trace any of them in print. To 
the Atlantic Monthly of December, 1869, he sent a 
paper on "The Mormon Prophet's Tragedy," a 
spirited account of the attack on Joseph Smith, and 


his shooting in Carthage jail by a Christian mob, on 
April 27, 1844. Some of the participators in that 
crime lived in Warsaw, Nauvoo, the Mormon set- 
tlement, was only fifteen miles to the north, and as 
Hay was then five years and a half old, he may have 
remembered something of the excitement which 
filled the entire country. 

He brought back from Madrid his bundle of Span- 
ish sketches, and a portfolio of fugitive poems. The 
former he had no difficulty in placing with James R. 
Osgood and Company a feather in the young 
writer's cap; for that firm were the successors of 
Ticknor and Fields, the publishers of the chief Amer- 
ican authors of the century. A happy accident hur- 
ried his poems into print. 

To the Overland Monthly for September, 1870, Bret 
Harte contributed " Plain Language from Truthful 
James," in which he introduced the Heathen Chinee 
to an international audience. The following month, 
during Hay's visit to his family in Warsaw, he is said 
to have written two poems, "Little Breeches" and 
"Jim Bludso," in the supposed dialect of the un- 
shorn Westerners. Some one reports that he was with 
Hay in the hotel overlooking the river at Keokuk 
when he dashed off "Jim Bludso." There have been 
other statements and counter-statements, and much 
speculation: but it is safer to accept Hay's own ac- 


count, which appears below. Even the suggestion 
that the " Heathen Chinee" started him in this vein 
of dialect verse, needs confirmation; because that 
amazingly clever satire is not in dialect, nor is it im- 
bued with the sentimental spirit peculiar to Hay's 

Whatever its origin may have been, Hay printed 
"Little Breeches" in the miscellaneous columns of 
the Weekly Tribune, on December 2, 1870, signed only 
by his initials. 1 It had an instant success, compara- 
ble to that of the " Heathen Chinee " itself. Its pop- 
ularity soon led him to put forth " Jim Bludso," and 
then a third, "Banty Tim," which Harper's Weekly 
published. Later he added three more to the series. 

In letters to friends, Hay tells of his dash into 
literature. To Nicolay, he writes on December 12, 

That ridiculous rhyme, " Little Breeches," of mine 
has had a ridiculous run. It has been published in 
nearly the whole country press from here to the 
Rocky Mountains. As my initials are not known and 
they generally get worn off on the second print, I 
have not been disgraced by it. 

I met G. at breakfast this morning, who called me 

1 To the Daily Tribune of December 6 he contributed "The Sur- 
render of Spain/ 1 one of the most stirring of his serious poems. 


Nicolay and was very cordial. That reminds me 
of Madrid, where we were all called Sickles by the 
Senoritas for a week or two. . . . 

Have you seen the first l of my " Castilian Days" 
which, by a Hibernicism of Fields, is a night? He 
seems greatly pleased with the stuff I have given 
him, and proposes to make a book of it next year. I 
went on there and spent a day or two very pleasantly 
among the geistreich of Cambridge and the Hub. 2 

To W. D. Howells 

TRIBUNE OFFICE, December 29, 1870. 

I thank you cordially for your delicious book. 1 
I had a copy before and can now indulge in the lux- 
ury of giving it away. You are my delight and my 
despair. Where the demon did you find that impos- 
sibly happy way of saying everything? It is a thing 
that the rest of us blunder on, once in a while, but 
you never miss. It is no trick or fashion, and so we 
will never tire of it till we tire of living. You see the 
critics all notice this, and not knowing what else to 
say, they say Hawthorne and Irving, etc. . . . 

I am plodding along, doing rather better than I 
expected. Have you ever seen a piece of dialect I 

1 " A Field Night in the Cortes." 

f Other parts of this letter are printed in Chapter xin, pp. 335, 336. 

1 Their Wedding Journey. 


wrote, "Little Breeches"? It has had an appall- 
ing run. It is published every day in hundreds of 
papers. Two political papers in the West have is- 
sued illustrated editions of it. I mention this to show 
what a ravenous market there is for anything of the 
sort. I can't do it but you could. That Western 
novel of yours must not be much longer delayed. 

When I said I can't, it was not measly but true. 
I wrote another one, and Reid says it is very bad 
in which I agree, so it is not to be published 
and I will do no more songs. . . . 

To J. G. Nicolay 

March, 1871. 

. . . They send you the February Atlantic. The 
March number has nothing from me, and therefore 
it won't pay to buy it. The April number has a first- 
rate article on Spanish holidays by a youth to for- 
tune and to fame unknown. Item. The March Lip- 
pincott, which has a Warsaw story into it. 1 

I am rubbing along, doing my day's work daily 
not entirely satisfied with myself but drawing my 
pay regular. The correct press and the unsuccessful 
critics pound me black and blue, but I eat my diurnal 

1 "The Blood Seedling, f> interesting because it displays in its 
treatment that unconscious conflict between realistic substance 
and a somewhat romantic spirit which was more marked in The 


hash with a good appetite, and get more than is 
right for everything I do. I have just sold a third 
dialect poem to Harper's Weekly for $50 to be pub- 
lished with a picture. It is called " Banty Tim " and 
touches the contraband. Have you seen "Jim 
Bludso" ? I send you a copy. It has been more widely 
liked and denounced than "Little Breech." 

Horrible power of drink! Last night I met 

at the Tribune door you know him, the wittiest 
journalist of our time. He was covered with mud 
and plastering. Had been rolling in the gutter 
was crying like a sick child said they had kicked 
him out of the last place he was in, begged me for 
twenty cents, and sobbed with joy when I gave him 
fifty. Some night he will die in the street. You and 
I have kept drinking company all our lives, and 
yet have never felt for an instant the claws of 
temptation. Let us thank God! 

To W. D. Howells 

December 24, 1871. 

I am badly frightened about that article. I will 
do it to-morrow or next day if possible; but I am aw- 
fully worritted with many things, and need twenty- 
five hours a day. 

Here is the paragraph of editorial to which you 


refer. I am delighted with the success of your book, 
and was sure of it, though the delay of the second 
edition is infamous and shows little faith. I met an 
angry man this morning who went to Button's for 
the "Wedding Journey" and not finding it, had to 
buy "Castilian Days." 

Mr. Howells, who was then managing the Atlantic 
Monthly, although James T. Fields held the nom- 
inal editorship for a while longer, joyfully accepted 
the Spanish papers, and advised printing some of 
them in the magazine before Osgood brought them 
out as a book. Five 1 appeared thus in serial form, 
between January and July, 1871; then they were 
all issued in the autumn under the title " Castilian 
Days." Almost simultaneously, the same house 
published " Pike County Ballads and Other Pieces." 

To his friend, Albert Rhodes, 2 Hay wrote on 
June 19, 1871: 

11 1 am the creature of accident. I am not to blame 
for the absurd vogue of my doggerel. If you want 
to read something to purge your soul, some good, 

1 January Atlantic: "A Field-Night in the Spanish Cortes"; 
February: "Spanish Living and Dying"; April: "Red-Letter Days"; 
May : " The Cradle and Grave of Cervantes " ; July : " Tauromachy. " 

1 Born in Pittsburg, Pa., in 1840; United States Consul at Jeru- 
salem; later, at Rotterdam, Rouen, and Elberfeld; contributed to 
Scnbner's and other magazines. Published, Jerusalem As It Is, 1865; 
and The French at Home, 1875. 


honest, hard, horse-sense, read my 'Castilian Days' 
when they come out, which will be next fall." 

Hay did not simulate modesty. Being human, he 
could not fail to enjoy the reputation which his bal- 
lads brought him; but that he did not overestimate 
them appears from his reply to Richard Henry Stod- 
dard, the poet and literary worker, who wished to in- 
clude some of them in a compilation he was making : 

To R. H. Stoddard 

THE TRIBUNE, October 5, 1871. 

I hope you will not suspect me of affectation when 
I tell you I don't want to go into Griswold's book. 
I am no poet, I make no claim whatever that way. 
There is hardly one educated man in my acquaint- 
ance but has written as much verse as I. By an un- 
lucky accident I put a quaint story into rhyme and 
gave it to Reid, and the people who would n't read 
you or Tennyson to save your lives, read this, and 
guffawed over it and me voild a poet! Then Os- 
good came and tempted me, and the mischief was 

Now, if I keep quiet a year or two, all that will be 
forgotten and will be as if it never was. I do not want 
the memory of it preserved in standard books which 
will go into libraries. 

There is nothing I respect so much as the name of 


a poet. If I had done anything like your work or 
Stedman's, I would be indifferently conceited over 
it. But I have never written a rhyme which de- 
served to be printed, still less to be gathered up 
and kept as specimens of literature. I can do some 
things as well as most men of my weight, but poems 
are not of them. Let me up, and pass on to the next 
man in H. ! 

I also read with infinite delight Harte's savage 
article on Miller. 1 I don't agree with it. I think the 
wild cuss is a poet. But Harte did sling his scalpel 
in a most stylish way. I believe I would have en- 
joyed it if I had been the subject. . . . 

Hay's " Castilian Days " contains many of the best 
pages he ever wrote best, that is, in style. After 
nearly fifty years the book stands unapproached in 
English as a panorama of Spanish life and history, 
of Spanish legends and superstitions and landscape. 
Hay comes, an outlander from the New World, into 
that ancient Iberian country, where many centuries 
have petrified customs and beliefs, and the Past 
almost blots out the Present. Hay views all with 
keen eyes. His thirst for observing is unquenchable. 

1 Cincinnatus Heine Miller (1841-1913), who, as "Joaquin" Mil- 
ler, had just published the Songs of the Sierras. Miller affected the 
flannel shirt and cowhide boots of a son of Nature and was feted in 


He can make you see things as he saw them fixing, 
in the vivid sentence which remains, the play of 
light and shade, the flash of a momentary street 
scene, or the fleeting impression. He furnishes in- 
formation, but not in the guide-book way; and as he 
never writes merely to instruct you, he is rarely dull. 
Perhaps a Spaniard would not accept Hay's judg- 
ments what native ever accepts a foreigner's 
criticism of his own people? but he could not fail 
to acknowledge the young American's general sym- 
pathy, or his enthusiasm for the undisputed noble 
monuments of Spain. 

Those who accuse him of writing as a Protestant or 
as a Puritan, when he lays bare the bigotry and igno- 
rance and lack of any religion which reveals itself 
in righteous conduct, misjudge him. His condem- 
nation is unsectarian, the verdict that a normal 
ethical nature, regardless of creed, would pronounce 
at the sight of degradation due to the long rule of 
Jesuits, and friars, and to the Inquisition, which sur- 
vived, in a milder form, down almost to the time 
when Hay knew Spain. But that is only one feature 
of the book. The lasting impression it leaves is 
of variety, clear-sightedness, and candor; together 
with Hay's zest in observing and his exhilaration in 

Among pen-pictures of travel produced by Amer- 


icans, we may reckon only Mr. Howells's " Venetian 
Life" as a rival of "Castilian Days"; but Hay by 
his higher actuality surpasses that delightful minor 
masterpiece. Howells, the more practised and 
smoother writer, breathes through his pages a quiet 
almost wistful atmosphere which accords perfectly 
with his theme. But Hay employs a manner of treat- 
ment which suits his Spanish subjects not less ad- 
mirably: for in Spain there is often no atmosphere, 
no mediating haze, only an air so translucent that 
you feel that you can touch the distant mountains, 
and there is no compromise between dazzling sun- 
shine and cypress-dark shadow. Scarcely less 
praiseworthy is the balance which he keeps between 
vivid description and not less lively impression, be- 
tween information and interpretation. The later 
literary landscapists Lafcadio Hearn and Mr. 
Percival Lowell in Japan, and Mr. Henry James, 
for instance tend rather to impressionism ; so, 
much so, indeed, that in some of Mr. James's 
sketches the objective fact seems only a text or 
stimulus to release in him a flood of subjective emo- 
tions and of reflections not always pertinent. 

But, comparisons aside, "Castilian Days" holds 
its place in American literature. No book in its 
field is more exactly what it purports to be, and few 
display an ampler range of qualities wit, irony, 


enthusiasm, shrewdness, honesty, indignation, ro- 
mance, charm. Free alike from the reserves and the 
cynicism of maturity, it speaks the perennially al- 
luring language of youth. Having won favor while 
running in the Atlantic Monthly, it at once received 
a more than friendly recognition on its publication as 
a book. A score of years later when, having passed 
through many printings, a revised edition was called 
for, Hay wisely decided to let the papers stand as he 
originally wrote them, in the first half of 1870. 

" I have never gone back to Spain," he says, in a 
brief, model preface, "and I have arrived at an age 
when I begin to doubt if I have any castles there re- 
quiring my attention. I have therefore nothing to 
add to this little book. Reading it again after the 
lapse of many years, I find much that might be ad- 
vantageously modified or omitted. But as its merits, 
if it had any, are merely those of youth, so also are 
its faults, and they are immanent and structural; 
they cannot be amended without tearing the book 
to pieces. . . . 

11 1 must leave what I wrote in the midst of the stir- 
ring scenes of the interregnum between the secular 
monarchy and the short-lived Republic whose 
advent I foresaw, but whose sudden fall was veiled 
from my sanguine vision without defense or apol- 
ogy, claiming only that it was written in good faith, 


from a heart filled with passionate convictions and 
an ardent love and devotion to what is best in Spain. 
I recorded what I saw, and my eyes were better then 
than now. I trust I have not too often spoken amiss 
of a people whose art, whose literature, whose lan- 
guage, and whose character compelled my highest 
admiration, and with whom I enjoyed friendships 
which are among the dearest recollections of my 
life." l 

In 1893, the Spanish Princess Eulalia came over 
to represent Spain at the World's Fair in Chicago. 
Hay sends Mr. Adams this amusing note on meeting 
her at dinner. 

CLEVELAND, June 9, 1893 . 

I dined with H.R.H. Eulalia at the R.W.; with 
a heart overflowing with kindness, R. introduced me 
to all the Castilians and Bourbons as the author of a 
book about Spain which they really ought to read, 
etc., unconscious, the good R., that my unhappy 
little volume treats the august family of Spain as a 
set of pas grandes choses from Wayback, who have 
no place outside of penal and reformatory institu- 
tions. Still, if they can stand the Hymn of Riego at 
the British Embassy, they can stand an abusive book 
they have never heard of. 

1 Preface to revised edition, 1890. 


In Hay's Diary, for November i, 1904, there is an 

interesting entry in regard to " Castilian Days." The 

Presidential campaign, it should be recalled, was then 

drawing to a close. 

14 We had a brief cabinet meeting. I was somewhat 
chaffed on account of the story in the papers that the 
Irish had demanded of Cortelyou 1 my expulsion 
from the Cabinet, and that he had replied that he 
could not promise that, but assured them that a 
Catholic Irishman should be appointed First Assist- 
ant Secretary of State. They are evidently after me. 
I found on my desk to-day a pamphlet carefully 
printed, consisting wholly of extracts from ' Castilian 
Days/ showing that twenty-five years ago I had 
whacked with the freedom ?md irresponsibility of 
youth the Spanish Catholic Church from Torque- 
mada to Padre Claret." 

A book which is made a campaign document a 
generation after it was written is still alive; and this 
book will still live, not because secretaries, religious 
or political, once found in it stuff for controversy, but 
because it appeals to intelligent readers. 

John Hay's poems fall into three classes. First, and 
most famous, are the "Pike County Ballads" 

1 George B. Cortelyou, private secretary to Presidents McKinley 
and Roosevelt; subsequently, Secretary of Commerce and Labor, 
Postmaster-General, and Secretary of the Treasury. 


named from the Pike County where he spent much 
of his boyhood. There are six of these. "Little 
Breeches" and "Jim Bludso" rolled out spontane- 
ously; the others seem rather the product of the im- 
pulse, common in artists, to follow up a happy stroke 
by repeating it with variations. In the complete 
edition of Hay's " Poems, " put forth in 1890, " Gol- 
yer" and "The Pledge at Spunky Point* ' have been 
added. They are good, and if the first two had 
not, in a way, exhausted the possibilities of their 
type, we should probably think more highly of 

For one of the reasons why dialect poems capture 
the public is their novelty. Commonplaces which, 
if written in commonplace grammatical English, 
could bore us, seem strange, and therefore rare, when 
they come dressed in dialect, which serves to attract 
attention, just as the foreign costume does on the 
Italian, or Russian, or Japanese peasant. This is, of 
course, not all. A peasant may carry a precious load 
on his back, and the dialect poem likewise may be the 
vehicle of a very important message. 

The best example of this in modern English liter- 
ature we find in Lowell's " Biglow Papers," where the 
Yankee conscience expresses itself with characteris- 
tic irony and with surpassing wit, on questions of fun- 
damental significance. In adopting the language of 


the country folk, Lowell was able to score his points 
more effectively than if he had written them in pol- 
ished academic diction : for we still have an instinc- 
tive belief that the old farmers, or village characters, 
speaking their racy vernacular, must be as honest 
as they are unsophisticated, and represent, somehow, 
the simple, ultimate ideals of the country. As Lowell 
uses them they are the Yankee equivalent of the 
Greek chorus, except that, instead of mellow wit, the 
Greek old men abound in moral platitudes. 

After Lowell the two Americans whose dialect 
poems have attained a popular vogue almost equal 
to his are Bret Harte and John Hay: nevertheless, 
they are not in his class. For neither the California 
'Forty-niners nor the Mississippi roustabouts and 
rowdies were involved in any epochal issues such as 
Hosea Biglow knew he was adjudicating. The hero- 
ism of Jim Bludso, however, is as genuine as that of 
Horatius Codes, and Hay's skill consists in causing 
persons of all sorts to feel the genuineness of it. The 
dialect helps, because it introduces us without delay 
to the actors, the situation and the catastrophe; but 
the story itself becomes so pressing that we almost 
forget the dialect in our eagerness to learn the end. 
That is as it should be: bad grammar and slang can- 
not long hide absence of ideas. In one of the later 
ballads, "The Pledge at Spunky Point," however, we 


are conscious that Hay lays stress on dialect for its 
own sake; as for example, in this stanza: 

But Chris'mas scooped the Sheriff, 

The egg-nogs gathered him in; 
And Shelby's boy Leviticus 

Was, New Year's, tight as sin; 
And along in March the Golyers 

Got so drunk that a f resh-biled owl 
Would V looked 'long-side o' them two young men, 

Like a sober temperance fowl. 

Here the obvious effort of the writer is to collect 
dialect phrases; in "Jim Bludso " and " Little Breech- 
es," on the other hand, he rightly put the story first. 

But besides the novelty of dress, and the-intrinsic 
interest of the story, the moral sentiments pro- 
claimed in these two ballads undoubtedly account in 
large measure for their hold on the masses. In long- 
settled communities, having their accepted laws and 
creeds, their customs and special proprieties, it comes 
to be tacitly assumed that virtues and vices follow the 
line of social cleavage ; but in a pioneer social medium, 
like that which Hay describes, men are what they 
are. Hypocrisy, dissembling, and all the subtler 
forms of pretending to be what you are not, in order 
to stand well with the conventional system, are com- 
paratively ineffectual. How can you conform, where 
all is in flux? The pioneer sees that good and bad do 
not follow creed : that it is not going to church, or say- 


ing prayers, or listening to sermons that counts. He 
scouts at original sin, although, if you asked him why, 
he would probably say, " because he has seen virtues 
cropping out unexpectedly in the most unlikely per- 
sons." And then, deep down in the human heart lie 
the desire for equality and the conviction that most 
souls are "saved." Theological distinctions are a 
late product of human speculation. The rough-and- 
tumble frontiersman, deprived of every opportunity 
to "be good" in the traditional, church-going way, 
may, by a single act of heroism, exemplify the no- 
blest ideals that are preached in any pulpit. 

The moral of this attitude of admiration for the 
valiant, unselfish deed and of unconcern for the pro- 
fessed doctrine, Hay put plainly in the most famous 
of all his stanzas, that which concludes the ballad of 

He were n't no saint, but at jedgment 

I *d run my chance with Jim, 
'Longside of some pious gentlemen 

That would n't shook hands with him. 
He seen his duty, a dead-sure thing, 

And went for it thar and then; 
And Christ ain't a going to be too hard 

On a man that died for men. 1 

1 After Whitelaw Reid died in 1913, Cleveland Town Topics printed 
an interview which Mr. W. R. Coates had with him in 1910. Mr. Reid 
said: "I was responsible for the last lines in 'Jim Bludso,' although I 
did not write them. Hay brought in the poem, having finished it on 
the train. I told him it would n't do, that there must be something 


His summing up of "Little Breeches" is only a 
variation on this gospel the gospel which the 
founder of Christianity preached, "By their fruits 
ye shall know them " : 

And I think that saving a little child, 

And fetching him to his own, 
Is a denied sight better business 

Than loafing around The Throne. 

In regard to the much-debated origin of "Little 
Breeches" the following note, from Hay to J. T. 
Fields seems to me to be conclusive, unless it can be 
proved that the "bit of Western talk" to which he 
refers was not the "ballad" in question. 

To James T. Fields 

NEW YORK, Dec. 7, 1870. 

Have you seen a bit of Western talk I wrote one 
morning in Boston and published when I got here? 
It has had a surprising circulation. The whole West- 
ern press has copied it, clear through to the Pacific. 
It is too flimsy for criticism of course, but the little 
touch of humanity in it has covered its sins. 

besides the recital of an heroic act, some thought drawn from it that 
was vital and would live. He immediately sat down and added an- 
other stanza, closing with: 

" ' Christ ain't going to be too hard 
On a man who died for men/ 

In that same way, I am responsible for the last stanza of ' Little 


As this note is dated only five days after the publi- 
cation of the ballad in the Weekly Tribune, and as 
Hay was visiting the " geistreich" Bostonians at the 
time, the presumption is overwhelming that "Little 
Breeches" was born, not in his natural habitat on 
the prairie, but in Boston or Cambridge. 

In time Hay came to loathe the mention of the 
poem which made him famous, as much as General 
Sherman loathed the sound of "Marching through 
Georgia." Everybody quoted it to him: wherever 
he went among strangers he was introduced as its 
author; the parodies on it were numerous. He used 
to say that the rattle of it dinned in his ears through 
life like a tin can tied to a dog's tail. When he re- 
published his poems, he put "Jim Bludso" first in its 

To E. C. Stedman, who wrote to consult him in 
regard to selections for "An American Anthology," 
Hay replied: " I do not want to interfere with your 
editorial conscience, but would like timidly to sug- 
gest that you do not use 'Little Br ' in your 

recueil. You would pardon the cheeky request if 
you knew how odious the very name of that hope- 
less fluke is to yours faithfully." 

The first English edition, printed in 1871, was en- 
titled "Little Breeches," and the London Athen&um 
commented on it in the tone of condescension then 


typical of the English in their estimate of American 

11 It cannot be denied," said the Athenaum, "that 
there is a quaint vigour in Mr. Hay's manner of 
telling these anecdotes, but there is nothing in the 
ballads to warrant the praise bestowed upon them 
by the American press." l 

Nevertheless, following their habit of insisting 
that the outlandish or uncouth was essentially Ameri- 
can, the English took up the " Pike County Ballads," 
and when Hay went to London as Ambassador he 
heard his lines on many British lips. 

His mature feeling toward the two poems he ex- 
pressed in this letter to one of his former colleagues 
on the Tribune: 

To Joseph B. Bishop* 

WASHINGTON, D.C., January u, 1889. 

... I thank you very much for your kind letter 
and the enclosures, which I would not otherwise have 
seen. I thoroughly appreciate a good word spoken 
for "Jim," who is a friend of mine. I shudder and 
hide in the cellar only when the boy with the small 
Knickerbockers is mentioned. 

1 Aihcnaum, no. 2291. 

1 Mr. J. B. Bishop was on the staff of the Tribune from 1870 to 
1883; then he went to the Evening Post, 1883-1900. 
' Referring to "Jim Bludso" and "Little Breeches." 


A curious thing happened during that summer 
when we were holding up the Republican party by 
the tail. 

On the first appearance of J. B., Mark Twain wrote 
to me, saying that I was all wrong making him an 
engineer, that only a pilot could have done what 
I represented him as doing. This troubled me some- 
what, though I thought I was right. During the 
summer of '87, a cotton broker of New Orleans, a 
son of my J. B. (whose name was Oliver Fairchild, 
by the way) came to see me at the Tribune Office, 
and absolutely confirmed my story, saying that his 
father was engineer of the Fashion, and died in just 
that way. But the case was of course uncommon 
the pilot usually does the work and Jim Givens 
comes again to discredit me. 

I am afraid this is ominous of my fate, to be 
right as a historian and wrong as an artist. 

To a later correspondent Hay sent this final 
statement about the original "Jim Biudso." 

To M. H. Slater, Colorado 

WASHINGTON, February I3th, 1905. 

I think your idea of the mistake arises from there 
being two Fairchilds in Hancock County. I knew 
Oliver Fairchild very well, that is as a child and as 


a man grown who was generally on his boat and 
rarely at home. His son, Henry W. Fairchild, of New 
Orleans, was a schoolmate of mine. When I said 
I got the story from him, I merely meant that I got 
the details of the burning of the steamer Fashion 
and the death of his father from him. There is no 
mistake in the name. 

We need not examine the rest of the Poems in 
detail. The volume contains a group of "Wander- 
lieder " inspired by a special occasion, or by scenery, 
or by legends and tales which captivated him. Best 
among them is "Sunrise in the Place de la Con- 
corde," 1 which passes very naturally from a sketch, 
delicate yet distinct, of the actual Place, to an im- 
aginative review of the intermittent pomps and 
tragedies and heroisms which it had witnessed. 

'The Sphinx of the Tuileries" is a fine example 
of political invective which is saved from being a 
diatribe by its righteous indignation. Napoleon III, 
he says, 

is a Sphinx indeed. 

For the Sphinx with breast of woman 

And face so debonair, 
Had the sleek false paws of a lion 

That could furtively seize and tear. 

1 See Chapter ix., pp. 226, 228. 


So far to the shoulders, but if you took 
The Beast in reverse you would find 

The ignoble form of a craven cur 
Was all that lay behind. 

The closing lines lift the subject from the denun- 
ciation of a base individual to the affirmation of un- 
yielding faith: 

The people will come to their own at last, 
God is not mocked forever. 

In "Boudoir Prophecies" Hay plays sarcastically 
with the changed fortunes of Queen Isabella and 
Empress Eugenie a piece apparently slight, 
yet having barbs which hook it into the memory. 
"A Triumph of Order," reminiscent of the horrors 
of the Paris Commune, is a bit of realism as unquali- 
fied as one of Manet's drawings. And yet, in the 
midst of almost photographic closeness to life, Hay 
interjects a stanza with this unusual figure: 

For the joy of killing had lost its zest 

In the glut of those awful days, 
And Death writhed, gorged like a greedy snake, 

From the Arch to Pfcre-la-Chaise. 

If we turn to some of Hay's narrative poems, we 
shall see in them the predominance of the spirit of 
Romanticism as contrasted with Realism. (These 
labels are, in truth, somewhat vague, and they 
smack of literary cant; but they will serve our pur- 


pose here.) For Hay, like many another artist of his 
generation, was possessed by the two conflicting ten- 
dencies. Happily, in him there was no struggle, far 
less quarrel, between them : and so he was saved from 
the effort of deliberately choosing, as well as from 
the conscious partisanship, which troubled some of 
his contemporaries. When a subject kindled him, 
he wrote his poem on it, in whatever metre, style, or 
method he best could, never inquiring whether he 
was obeying the tenets of Realism or Romanticism. 
Therein, at least, he followed the practice of the 
world's men of genius instead of that of the world's 

The Poems faithfully represent John Hay's na- 
ture, not less than his gifts, in that they display 
versatility, manifold interests, a quick perception, 
responsive emotions, irony without malice, and an ap- 
titude for the unexpected turn of phrase. The variety 
of his metres is remarkable. His ear was musical, al- 
though not always correct. Perhaps his lapses came 
from rapid composition, rather than from any real 
deficiency in his metrical sense; for he often seems 
to improvise, rather than to work over and polish 
his verses. To improvisation belongs the charm of 
freshness, which Hay's poems seldom lack: its danger 
lies in its uneven texture. At his best, Hay delighted 
in flowing metres and well-matched, sonorous 


rhymes. Sometimes, especially in his earlier verses, 
we catch a musical sweep which might be thought 
Swinburnian were it not that the poem antedated 
Swinburne's first volume. He did not need to go in 
search of images, because they swarmed upon him 

If Hay's general poems enjoyed less repute than 
they deserved, it was because they came at a time 
when the verse-reading public was engrossed in 
the finicalities of metrical forms in the forgotten 
masterpieces of the Cherry-Stone Carvers, and the 
finds of the seekers after banal subjects and bizarre 
rhythms. Since their day has long since passed, it 
may be that now Hay's poetry, which springs from 
his genuine nature and not from a mere fad or 
fashion, will appeal to the grand-children of those 
who first read it. 

I hesitate to assign subjective significance even 
to those poems which appear, on the surface, to be 
personal confessions. The real artist is a very elusive 
creature, who, by virtue of the intuition which makes 
him an artist, glides like Proteus into so many shapes 
that the critic may mistake the imaginary creation 
for the creator himself. Still, in such a poem as 
"Lagrimas" Hay seems to give vent to a personal 
mood, or, if not that, to a mood which waylays men 
of his temperament when they discover, poignantly, 

3 8o JOHN HAY 

that the momentum of youth has slackened and that 
the things which they had taken for granted would 
last them through life, were the perquisites of youth 
alone, and with youth have vanished. 


God send me tears! 

Loose the fierce band that binds my tired brain, 
Give me the melting heart of other years, 

And let me weep again! 

Before me pass 

The shapes of things inexorably true. 
Gone is the sparkle of transforming dew 

From every blade of grass. 

In life's high noon 

Aimless I stand, my promised task undone, 
And raise my hot eyes to the angry sun 

That will go down too soon. 

Turned into gall 

Are the sweet joys of childhood's sunny reign; 
And memory is a torture, love a chain 

That binds my life in thrall. 

And childhood's pain 

Could to me now the purest rapture yield; 
I pray for tears as in his parching field 

The husbandman for rain. 

We pray in vain! 

The sullen sky flings down its blaze of brass; 
The joys of life all scorched and withering pass; 

I shall not weep again. 


There, indisputably, is a sincere poem, welling up 
from a heart which knew that passion and suffering 
are two aspects of the same experience. 

As if to round out his poetical expression, Hay 
wrote a cluster of epigrams, from which I cite half- 
a-dozen examples. Some of them have the tang of 
worldly-wisdom before it has soured into cynicism. 


There are three species of creatures who when they seem 

coming are going, 
When they seem going they come: Diploma tes, women, and 



Pleasures too hastily tasted grow sweeter in fond recollection, 
As the pomegranate plucked green ripens far over the sea. 


What is a first love worth, except to prepare for a second? 
What does the second love bring? Only regret for the first. 

Maidens! why should you worry in choosing whom you shall 


Choose whom you may, you will find you have got somebody 

Unto each man comes a day when his favorite sins all forsake 

And he complacently thinks he has forsaken his sins. 

Who would succeed in the world should be wise in the use of 

his pronouns. 
Utter the You twenty times, where you once utter the I. 



Try not to beat back the current, yet be not drowned in its 

Speak with the speech of the world, think with the thoughts 

of the few. 

Make all good men your well-wishers, and then, in the years' 

steady sifting, 
Some of them turn into friends. Friends are the sunshine of 


Thus when Christmas, 1871, greeted John Hay, 
he enjoyed the distinction of being the author of two 
volumes of poetry and prose, either of which made 
him a citizen of the republic of letters. Fortune, 
whose favorite he always was, welcomed him with 
both hands. 



FRIENDS are the sunshine of life." That might 
well be John Hay's motto, the maxim which, 
had he been one of the Seven Sages, he would have 
bequeathed to posterity. His genius for friendship 
showed itself early in childhood and never failed him 
to his dying day. His associates delighted in him 
because of his playful wit, the richness and variety 
of his conversation, his deep-rooted kindliness, his 
frankness, a quality which does not always make 
for friendship, and his sympathy. They did not 
think of him as the successful author or the brilliant 
editor; and later, when he walked on the highest 
levels of public life, he still remained for them 
not Hay the Ambassador, not Hay the Secretary of 
State, but Hay the friend. 

As it is by these intimate contacts rather than by 
external events, which often seem so casual as to be 
almost negligible, that we can best come to know 
him during his middle decades, I shall quote freely 
from his letters to his associates. 

Above other American letter-writers, he had spon- 
taneity that quality without which a letter can 


hardly escape being artificial, if not insincere. The 
notes which Hay dashed off on the spur of the mo- 
ment reflect his passing mood; they tell news of his 
work and of family plans; they give his opinion of 
the book he is reading or of persons; they sparkle 
with the wit which comes to him as he writes; they 
are delightfully indiscreet. If his purpose is to send 
information, he states it, but without pedantry. So 
his best letters have that charm of unpremeditation 
which belongs to the best talk; and, in this respect 
at least, they come nearer than any others to Byron's, 
which are the best in English. 

During his bachelor life in New York, Hay made 
many acquaintances outside of the circle of his 
Tribune associates. We hear, at one time, of a small 
coterie, composed of Whitelaw Reid, Dr. Richard 
H. Derby, and half a dozen other men, with their 
wives and sisters, where these existed; and this club, 
which met informally at the houses of its members 
to dine or sup, was a shrine of comradeship. By 
chance, a memento from it has come to me, which, 
though scarcely more than a bagatelle, is perhaps 
worth preserving; not so much because it displays 
Hay's sprightliness as because, through his jesting, 
we may discern his seriousness. 

Those were the days of Mental Photograph Al- 
bums, and on February 25, 1873, Hay made this 


portrait of himself for the album belonging to Miss 
Lucy Derby. 1 

1. Your favorite color? 

2. Flower? 

3. Tree? 

4 Object in Nature? 

5. Hour in the Day? 

6. Season? 

7. Perfume? 

8. Gem? 

9. Style of Beauty? 

10. Names, Male and Female? 

11. Painters? 

12. Musicians? 

13. Pieces of Sculpture? 

14. Poets? 

15. Poetesses? 

1 6. Prose Authors? 

17. Character in Romance? 

1 8. Character in History? 

19. Book to take up for an hour? 

20. What Book (not religious) 
would you part with last? 

21. What epoch would you choose 
to have lived in? 

22. Where would you like to live? 

23. What is your favorite amuse- 

24. What is your favorite occupa- 

25. What trait of character do you 
most admire in man? 

26. In woman? 

27. What trait do you most detest 
in each? 

28. If not yourself, who would you 
rather be? 

29. What is your idea of happiness? 

30. Of misery? 




School girls. 

The Shepherd's Hour. 

Currie- powder. 

The odor of sanctity. 

Jem Brady.* 

The accessible. 

Jack and Jill. 

Fresh air and sunshine. 

Infants (aetat. 6 mos.) 

The Sphinx. 

The unpublished. 

The Nine (none since). 

Lindley Murray. 

George Washington. 

Susan B. Anthony. 

"Jonathan Wild." 

Dante (because there is no 

temptation to waste time in read* 

ing it). 

The Twentieth Century. 

Worrying the wicked. 


Undue prosperity. 

Her second husband. 
A bad character and a good diges- 

* A prise-fighter. 

1 Now Mrs. S. Richard Fuller, to whom I am indebted for this 


31. What is your btte noire? A pen. 

32. What is your Mfe noire dream? Tiflis. 

33. What is your favorite game? "Woodcock's Little Game." 

34. What do you believe to be your 

distinguishing characteristics? Sweetness and light. 

35. If married, what do you be- 
lieve to be the distinguishing 
characteristic of your better- 
half? Self-sacrifice. 

36. What is the sublimest passion 
of which human nature is ca- 
pable? Waltzing. 

37. What are the sweetest words 

in the world? " It 's early yet." (Bleib & Bisserl). 

38. What are the saddest words? Too late. 

39. What is your aim in life? The Universal Commune. 

40. What is your motto? Love your neighbor, but be care- 

ful of your neighborhood. 

After Hay's marriage, he and his wife lived for a 
year in New York, and then removed to Cleveland, 
Ohio, where they made their home for nearly ten 
years. During that time they were frequently absent, 
and on one occasion they spent two seasons in Wash- 
ington. Still, Cleveland was home to them. Mr. Stone 
built a house for his daughter on Euclid Avenue. 
Hay opened an office, his theoretical duties being, it 
appears, to assist Mr. Stone in managing large fin- 
ancial interests; his main business, however, the 
work which, in spite of many interruptions, gave con- 
tinuity to his energy during this period and later, 
was his collaboration with Nicolay on the Life of 
Lincoln. I shall return to this biography later, 
merely begging the reader to bear in mind that it lay 
in the background of Hay's thoughts, whether he 


mentioned it or not, through all the years covered 
by the following letters. 

If we except Mrs. Whitman and Miss Perry, 
the encouragers of his college poetic dreams, Mr. 
Howells was probably the first literary figure with 
whom he became acquainted. Although only a 
year and a half older than Hay, Mr. Howells com- 
menced as author in 1860, when with John J. Piatt, 
he printed his first volume, 11 Poems of Two Friends." 
This Hay read in Springfield, and on his journey 
East, he stopped over at Columbus in order to greet 
and congratulate the unknown young poet an 
indication of his enthusiasm. But Howells happened 
to be away, and it was not until a little while later, 
when Hay was in the White House, that they met. 1 
Thenceforth, strong friendship bound them together; 
and Hay was one of the earliest and loyalest of the 
novelist's admirers. 

A note to one of his European correspondents gives 
a glimpse of his early married life. 

To Albert Rhodes 

NEW YORK, January 28, 1875. 

I was right glad to hear from you and to learn you 
thought of coming back to us. You have evidently 

1 Hay must also have known of Howells through his campaign 
Life of Abraham Lincoln, published in 1860. 


had a good time, and I suppose you are now coming 
back, to let loose a brilliant book upon the university 
world. Come, and have the success you have so well 

I am leading a quiet life and shall be glad to have 
you Sgayer it somewhat with your French airs and 
graces. We are established for a year at n East- 
Forty-Second Street (wide street, you know, near 
5th Avenue) in a pleasant house, and there is always 
something in the larder (I don't know what a larder 
is, but it is euphonious) wherewith to barricade your 
bowel against the wolf. . . . 

To Whitelaw Reid 

NEW YORK, April 29, 1875. 

I can't walk, stand or sit but by special grace 
I am still able to lie on my stomach. If you can think 
of a subject you would like to have treated from that 
point of view, send it over, and I will worry it. 

Yours in Job-like dejection. 

In the late spring of 1875 the Hays went to Cleve- 
land, where they lived at 514 Euclid Avenue until 
their new house was ready. The following year, 
serious trouble with his eyes caused him to forego 
writing for several months. He seems to have suf- 
fered from what later oculists diagnose as eye-strain, 



which caused head-aches, nervous dyspepsia, and 
depression. Prolonged rest benefited him ; but the dis- 
tressing symptoms recurred at intervals all his days. 

Into the life of Cleveland he entered with his cus- 
tomary adaptability. Mr. Stone's position was a 
point of vantage in making Hay acquainted with the 
magnates of the city. His own interests introduced 
him to the political leaders, many of whom had 
known him in Washington days or through the 

Whatever social life Cleveland offered, the young 
couple had access to; and Hay had not been there 
long before he organized a dining-club composed of 
eight or ten men of various occupations, and at its 
dinners one heard the best that Cleveland had to 
give. Hay himself, according to the testimony of the 
most distinguished of their survivors, was the best 
after-dinner talker of them all. 

To Albert Rhodes 

CLEVELAND, OHIO, July 9, 1875. 

Many thanks for your recollection. But Mrs. 
Hay saw your book at a store in this city and made 
cadeau of it to me. I have not read it yet, for Madam 
has been devouring it herself and occasionally reads 
a page aloud to me, which justifies my long-standing 


opinion of your sparkling style and observant eye. 
Please accept our thanks for the pleasure the book 
has given us, as much as if we had got it for nothing. 
I have been a little of everywhere since I saw 
you. First I went to Boston; then to Illinois, where 
I passed ten days at my father's and met all my 
brethren who are still alive. 

To Whitelaw Reid 

CLEVELAND, OHIO, June 3, 1875. 

Yesterday morning, after we had been here an 
hour or so, the corner of the new house was laid, and 
ever since my ears have been full of the muffled click 
of the chisels of some half hundred workmen on the 
soft yellow stone. Mr. Stone is much better than I 
had expected to find him. He is lame, and walks with 
a crutch, but otherwise he is much better than he 
was in New York. Of course he is far from well, but 
I feel as if there was a good chance for a steady re- 
covery now. This removes a heavy weight from my 

We have had as yet no talk about our business 
plans. That will be postponed until after my return 
from Warsaw. If he is then decidedly better, we can 
come to some conclusion in regard to the winter. 

I have felt a dozen times yesterday and to-day a 
sort of blind impulse to go down to Printing House 


Square and write some brevier. The moment the 
obligation was removed, the desire to write began 
to be born again. 

I hope you have endorsed the Ohio platform of the 
Republicans. It is almost perfect, and I suppose 
Hayes l to be a good sort of man. The Democrats 
have made so bad a use of their success in this State 
that there ought to be a show for Hayes this time. 

To Whitelaw Reid 

July 19, 1875- 

I merely put that address there for the sake of 
grandeur, to let you know that we have at last got 
into an office and have carpeted it and set up desks 
and bought some note-paper and a waste-basket, and 
are now ready to skin the pensive Buckeye with 
neatness and dispatch. 

. . . Don't think of sending me the Thiers auto- 
graph. I would have it prettily framed, if I were you. 
It is a very nice thing for your children. It is the 
thanks of the French Republic, voyez-vous ! 

... I never saw so many pretty girls as there are 
in Cleveland. Hurry along! 

The Tribune is marvellously full and good. I can't 

1 R. B. Hayes, nominated by the Republicans for Governor of 
Ohio, was elected in October. 


read it all nowadays, but I struggle through as much 
as I can stand. It is a far bigger paper than I thought 
when I was there in the kitchen helping to cook it. 
Only don't waste your nervous system altogether. 
Save Hassard and some of the rest, and you can keep 
it as good as it is for a lifetime. 

Scattered through Hay's letters to Whitelaw Reid 
are references to the growing family. This, for ex- 
ample, is his unusual form of announcing the birth 
of the elder daughter, Helen : 

"DEAR REID: It is painful, but I must tell you. 
My wife says, when you come to the house, that you 
have got to hold the baby." 

In another letter to Reid, on quite different mat- 
ters, we light upon this amusing parenthesis: 

11 (Mrs. Stone gave me to-day a portrait of herself 
with my wife (cetat. five months) sitting in her lap. 
It is the image of my infant to-day, which I hope 
disposes forever of the foul and widely-circulated 
calumny that the baby looks like me.) " 

And here is probably his earliest description of his 
son Adelbert: 

"My Tribune commenced coming the day after 
I telegraphed. I suppose it may have gone wrong a 
day or two on account of there being no street num- 
ber on the address, but it is all right now, and with a 


boy and a Tribune in the house we are sufficiently 
furnished to feel comfortable. The young man's 
name is Adelbert Stone Hay, no Jr. in mine, if 
you please, though I fought off the name single- 
handed against great odds. He is a fine little man- 
child, ugly and strong, lean and big-boned, with a 
boundless capacity for sleeping and eating, and as 
yet no music in him. Long may he fight it out on 
that line. 

" There is nothing in which a bachelor's ignorance 
shines out so flagrantly as in his feeble-minded 
conviction that babies look alike. There is no fam- 
ily-likeness even, between my two. My little girl, 
who was quite ugly at first, has become very pretty. 
I do not think the boy ever will, from present appear- 
ances, but he looks already like a railroad maker 
and statesman. Mrs. Hay, the Lord be thank't, is 
very well. The babies take none of her health or 
good looks away from her." 

In 1883 Hay writes from Cannes to Albert Rhodes: 

"The children are all well and gay. The baby is 
three years old to-day and there are rumors of great 
doings in the nursery. A cake with three candles and 
. ^n orgie with strop. 

" I too have a letter from P. His glory is not sat 
isfying to his soul. He seems disconsolate. Where, 
my brethren, is happiness? In the dictionary." 

394 JOHN 

Hay watched the Tribune with a former editor's 
special interest, and, being free from the drudgery of 
its routine, he often expressed regret for the pleasant 
hours past. "I wish I could drop in on you for an 
hour or so," he writes Reid. "When I am in New 
York I hardly ever go to anything but now it 
makes one homesick to read the ads in the Tribune." 
(June 5, 1875.) 

To W. D. Howells 

536 Eucuo AVENUE, CLEVELAND, 0., 
February 20, 1877. 

I send a few lines of vituperation for the Contribu- 
tors' Club l as your wisdom may ordain. 

I hear you are to write a "No Name" 2 story, but 
I do not believe a word of it. Your name is too valu- 
able to veil. If you do, let me know, in strict confi- 
dence. I cannot afford to read the "No Name" 
books. I fear I might plunge into some such ditch 
of M. and water as D. Your comedy 8 is delicious. 
My wife reads it to me. 

The last Atlantic has come, and we think that no 
magazine has a right to two things as good as you 
and James at once. Is not "The American" aston- 

1 A department of the Atlantic Monthly. 

9 The Boston publishing house of Roberts Brothers brought out 
a aeries of anonymous novels under this general title. 
1 A Counterfeit Presentment. 


ishing, even to us who always believed in him? Of 
course not " aesthetically attractive" but well! 
well! let us be patient! Such things have always 

In the spring of 1878 Hay's health was so seriously 
impaired that the doctor told him he must lie off all 
summer. As Mrs. Hay could not accompany him, he 
suggested to Nicolay to join him on a tour of recrea- 

To J. G. Nicolay 

April 6, 1878. 

. . . [The doctor] suggests see how great minds 
jump together what you did Colorado. Only 
you suggested taking me. Eh bien! Can you go? If 
you can't, I am rather inclined to Switzerland in- 

If you can go, let me know, and when you can get 
off. It won't cost you much all the extras I will 
stand, and you will come back to Washington so fat 
they will charge you double. 

Let me know at once. 

I think I shall go to Philadelphia about May 1st 
and consult Weir Mitchell before starting. So that 
all definite plans can be postponed till then. 


To Whitdaw Reid 

July 5, 1878. 

... I wish you could ever have as lazy time as I 
had for ten days at Warsaw, though I suppose 
you could not have endured it. We were all together 
without our wives, and spent every precious minute 
of the time in loafing and remembering our childhood. 
I got acquainted with my brother Leonard over 
again, and liked him better than ever. If I had not 
been too lazy to take down his talk, it would have 
been all good copy, about life on the frontier. But 
as I was going to say, I wish you would take care of 
yourself in some way. It is getting to be a mania with 
me, . . . and I made myself a nuisance at Spring- 
field by croaking at Charles Hay, 1 who works nearly 
twenty hours a day. I am grieved and ashamed to 
see that the Tribune is as good and better without 
me. Why can't you make up your mind to let it go 
a little while oh the momentum you have given it! 
It is a tremendous paper. I see it more plainly than 
ever when I am away. Every one I meet says the 
same thing; it has fairly conquered criticism. If you 
would now learn to sleep and eat like a Christian, 
it would be all the better for you and your congrega- 
tion. . . . 

1 John's younger brother. 


Nicolay being unable to take the European trip, 
Hay invited his brother Leonard, and the two re- 
newed their youth while traveling in England and 
on the Continent. John's memorandum book con- 
tains brief notes which show that he was not too 
worn out for sight-seeing. As usual, he listed the 
paintings and monuments which particularly at- 
tracted him. At Amsterdam the "towers are out 
of perpendicular. Read Zola, Une Page d' Amour. 
Black and bitter as gall." 

At the station of Ehrenbreitstein Hay saw the 
Empress Eugenie: "bowed," is his laconic note; with 
what recollections on his part of their meeting thir- 
teen years before, may be imagined. The brothers 
spent some time at Schlangenbad, where John took 
the baths and was assured by Dr. Bauman, who 
looked him over, that "there was nothing serious," 
At Schwalbach, Dr. Carl Genth examined his eyes 
and " saw no organic trouble whatever." 

One other item reads: 

"Weight of J. H. July 26, 1878. Kilo 66, gr. 500; 
German pounds, 133; English pounds, 146^. Weight 
of L.H. Kilo 7i,gr. 500; German pounds, 143; Eng- 
lish pounds, 157^." 

In September the brothers came home. 


To Whitelaw Reid 

CLEVELAND, July 27, 1878. 

... I don't see any good reason why we should 
not set December 7 as the Saturday night on which 
we shall beguile Howells down to New York, and I 
will come too. Only you are not to have any spread 
on that evening, for we shall want to go to the 

Howells's play, produced here Friday, is a trans- 
lation of that pathetic Spanish tragedy, Yorick, 1 
which you and I saw some years ago at the Fifth 
Avenue. Howells has greatly improved it. It is a 
beautiful tragedy now and Barrett 2 played it mag- 
nificently but it is too sombre and heart-breaking 
to have much money in it. 

I have not congratulated you on your great coup. s 
It is the biggest piece of intelligent journalism, as dis- 
tinguished from mere enterprise, that has been done 
in the country. The leader-writing about it has been 
as good as the cipher-work, can't say better, for 
obvious reasons. 

I have not thanked you either for taking me to 

1 By Est&banez, whose play in Spanish is Un Nueoo Mundo. 

1 Lawrence Barrett (1838-91), actor who, during his last years, 
starred with Edwin Booth. 

1 Deciphering the Florida despatches which were held by Re- 
publicans to prove the corrupt practices of the Democrats. 


Teaneck, that Sunday. I never had really talked with 
Walter Phelps l before, and I should not have felt 
like leaving the world without meeting so original 
and lovable a character. He is charming mind 
and heart both, one of the fellows that ought to 
live forever to help sweeten a brackish world. 

To the playwright himself, Hay sent not only 
congratulations on Yorick's Love, but this fragment 
of dramatic criticism. 

To W. D. Howdls 

CLEVELAND, O., October 28, 1878. 

I went home last night moved and shaken to the 
core by your play, 2 and I woke up this morning with 
that vague sense of calamity with which a sorrow of 
the night before tinges the morning. I hardly know 
how to begin my report to you. If the theatre was 
merely a temple of art and poetry I could congratu- 
late you on a great and glorious triumph. I am sure 
I never saw Barrett play as well, with such sustain- 
ing agony of expression. I went in to see him after 
the second Act, and he was haggard as a ghost and 
drenched with perspiration, but he showed no di- 

1 William Walter Phelps (1839-94) whose home was at Teaneck, 
near Englewood, New Jersey; he was a Congressman, 1873-75;^ 
Minister to Austria, 1881-82; and minister to Germany, 1889-93. 

1 YoricVsLm. 


minution of energy in the last Act. The play through- 
out had a terrible clutch upon the feelings of the 
audience, in spite of the young man who played 
Edmund, who overdid his part and left the audience 
behind him with no inclination to catch up. In all 
Barrett's scenes the attention was painfully intense, 
only interrupted by quick and electrical storms of 

The audience was like your other one last year, 
an Atlantic Monthly crowd which crammed every 
inch of space. They appreciated the good acting 
and the good writing as well. The exquisite versifi- 
cation in the second Act, for instance, was remarked 
upon by a dozen people about me, who, I should 
have thought, would not care for such things. It 
was a great tragedy, nobly played, in short; and it 
had last night an honest and legitimate success. The 
success was yours, too, for it was a very different 
play from the one I saw at the Fifth Avenue Thea- 
tre some years ago, improved almost beyond recog- 
nition. It was the best written play I have heard for 
a long time. 

Now shall I go on with the hateful candor of a 
friend, and tell you the further impression it made on 
me? I do not believe that, as the play stands, it will 
ever have great runs, or make you much money. The 
plot is so simple, the story so sombre and heart- 


breaking, that after the play becomes known, few 
people will go to see it except those who enjoy the 
very best things in writing and acting. It is too con- 
centrated, too intense. The five people in it are in 
such a profound agony that an ordinary audience 
would grow nervous. They must laugh once in a 
while, and if you do not give them the chance to do 
it legitimately, they will do it in the wrong places. 
I do not know how the Greeks managed with their 
awful simplicity and work, but Shakespeare had to 
throw in what I dare not call padding. 

Perhaps I am croaking in vain, after all. The play 
is magnificent. I wonder how any contemporary 
Spaniard could have done it. Your part of the work, 
it seems to me, is faultless, and Barrett's is unques- 
tionably the stoutest piece of work I ever saw him 
do. (You made an improvement in keeping Shakes- 
peare behind the flies. He was almost grotesque in 
the original.) The applause was of the sharpest and 
most spontaneous kind and the people were roused 
and moved in a very uncommon way. Perhaps I am 
morbid and cannot look at the prosperous side of 
things, but I think you will prefer to have me say 
what I think, even if I am wrong. I am sure I never 
left a theatre feeling such a sense of tragedy as last 
night, except when I walked out of the Academy of 
Music one afternoon and felt that I ought to go and 


tell the police that Salvini had smothered his wife 
and killed himself. 1 

Turning to brighter things, Mrs. Hay and I are 
just starting across the ocean with Miss Blood, 9 with 
the assurance of a happy voyage. The first number 
is delightful. It gives the pleasure we feel at the first 
note of Wilhelmj's fiddle; we know he can keep on 
doing it as long as he likes. 

To J. G. Nicolay 

CLEVELAND, O., January n, 1879. 

I think Colorado must be the thing after all. I 
went to Europe in May, had the quietest summer of 
my life. Spent a month or so in England, loafing in 
city and country; did not go to a single dinner-party 
or opera; then loafed through Holland and Belgium; 
up the Rhine to Schlangenbad, where we stayed a 
month; then a little of Northern Italy and Switzer- 
land; then the [Paris] Exposition and Scotland, and 
a week's sleepy rest at Windermere, and home. In 
all this I was more quiet than I would have been in 
Cleveland. After I got back I imagined I felt better 
for a month or so, but the other day I had the most 
ridiculous attack I have ever had thought I was 

1 Tommaso Salvini first acted Othello in New York at the Acad- 
emy of Music in the autumn of 1873. 
1 A character in The Lady of the Aroostook. 


dead for half an hour. The doctor said it was nothing 
at all serious simply the effect of the cold. But 
I feel rickety yet. 

I have been trying my best to get to work again, 
with very indifferent success. But I feel to-day as if 
I might make some headway for a while. I will 
write you later and tell you how I get on. Perhaps 
I can come to see you later in the season, but I can't 
say certainly yet. I won't come unless I can bring at 
least, say, 33,000 words. 

In the autumn of 1879 William M. Evarts, the Sec- 
retary of State under President Hayes, succeeded, 
after much urging, in persuading Hay to be As- 
sistant Secretary a post which he filled until the 
installation of Garfield's Administration. 

To Albert Rhodes 

WASHINGTON, June 8, 1880. 

I received your letter of the 22nd and the "Vie 
Moderne " at the same time. I thank you very much 
for sending it to me. I have always been greatly inter- 
ested in Flaubert's work and am glad to know some- 
thing of the man. I have read, I believe, all his works 
except the "Education Sentimentale," which I see 
you call in your admirable letter to the Tribune " the 


weakling of his brain" so perhaps I have not lost 
much in missing that. 

I am always glad to hear from you. I have no news 
to tell you except that I have two daughters and a 
son all healthy and happy and that I have 
only one aspiration in life and that is two to get 
out of office and to stop having headache. 

To Whitelaw Reid 

WASHINGTON, February u, 1881. 


My heart is full of your happiness. 1 I give you a 
thousand congratulations. The best thing has hap- 
pened to you that could happen. You will be at 
peace the rest of your life so far as the greatest of all 
questions is concerned. You will have a good wife 
good through and through and I can tell you 
what that amounts to. 

I need not tell you how I have desired and hoped 
for this. I have rarely met a young lady whom I liked 
so much at first sight as Miss Mills; and Mrs. Hay 
sanctioned my judgment of her noble qualities by 
some feminine judicial process which does not re- 
quire long acquaintance. . . . 

1 Mr. Reid had announced his engagement to Miss Elizabeth 


The proposition on your last page takes my breath 

away. I suppose I shall decline it finally, but I shall 

take pleasure in thinking it over for a while. It is a 

great temptation. 

I had a letter to you lying sealed on the table when 
this momentous missive was handed to me. But I 
tore it up it was all about politics, new cabinets, 
and myself, and such small deer, not worthy of your 
present frame of mind. 
Well! God bless you and yours, now and always! 

The proposition which took Hay's breath away 
was that he should act as editor-in-chief of the Trib- 
une while Reid spent his honeymoon in Europe. 
This was, in truth, a final token of the value which 
Reid set on his judgment. Hay's literary ability no- 
body questioned; but judgment and tact are the 
compass and rudder without which a newspaper can 
never make port, and Reid plainly trusted in him 
for both. 

Hay accepted the offer, partly to assist his friend, 
and partly because he liked to try his hand at new 
and formidable undertakings. The Reids were mar- 
ried on April 26, 1881; and for six months Hay sat 
in the editorial chair which Horace Greeley had 


To Albert Rhodes 

CLEVELAND, O., February 19, 1882. 

Many thanks for sending "Serge Panine." I 
should have written to ask for it, if it had not come. 
I am just now alitt by an attack of diphtheria which 
will soon be over, I am told ; and then we shall attack 
"M. Panine." 

I have read all the stories in Hatevy's volume 
and find them delicious. I suppose he is Jew by re- 
ligion as well as by blood ; otherwise his irreverence 
would never be so light and dainty. 

To W. D. Howdls 

CLEVELAND, March 26, 1882. 

Your letter had a powerful effect on Mrs. Hay 
and me. Our minds were in solution and your letter 
precipitated them in an eye-twinkle. We had been 
intending to go to Europe, but thereafter all was 
vague; now we shall go to Florence. What larks! 
We shall sail in the White Star steamer of July 15; 
if you took the same it would be butter upon sau- 
sage, as Josh Billings once said in an inspired mo- 
ment. I have been working hard, and laying up great 
store of MS. I shall go down to Washington next 
week and talk with Nicolay and then be free, for a 
vacation of respectable size. 


... I never promised myself that much of a 
spree in my life. I feel a little superstitious about 
it now as if it were too good for the likes of me. 
But to escape the envy of the Gods I will take a lot 
of historical notes in my trunk, ostensibly to write a 
few chapters, but really to ballast me, and lower my 
spirits with the thought of duty unperformed. 

... I am still not well, and the doctor tells me 
not to be worried if I take a month more to get well 

Man nennt das grosste Gluck auf Erden 

Gesund zu sein; 
Sein grdsseres ist gesund zu werden. 

When I see you I will tell you what I think of it. 

In 1882 the Hays went to Europe and passed the 
winter. Europe on the East, and the Rocky Moun- 
tains on the West where Hay found simple quar- 
ters at Manitou Springs, or Colorado Springs 
became henceforth his chosen resorts for recupera- 
tion; and as the children grew old enough to travel, 
they went too. To the many acquaintances whom 
Hay had already made in England, he added new 
ones at each visit, and some of these ripened into 
friends. The bonds thus formed proved later precious 
in ways he never dreamed of. 

4 o8 JOHN HAY 

To E. C. Stedman 

CLEVELAND, O. f June 28, 1882. 

Mrs. Hay has put a heavy load on me in charg- 
ing me to ask you to write some verses in her book. 
I know, better than most of the profane, what a 
corvee this is. But I begin myself to wish to see the 
book completed, and you are too important a vic- 
tim to escape. You will see how worthy the com- 
pany is of you: Emerson, Longfellow, and others. 
Don't damn me too much, say about half what I 

To complete your kindness and fill up the measure 
of my imprudence would you mind giving me a 
letter to Swinburne? I will not crowd upon him, 
but if ever I come in his way, I would like to be 
indebted to you for an introduction to him. . . . We 
sail from New York July 15. 

To W. D. Howells 


September 18, 1882. 

Did you learn what Alma Tadema would ask, say, 
for one of those pretty little pictures of his, the one 
with two figures in it? If it were not too monstrous 
I think I would get Mr. Stone to buy it. Do not take 
the trouble to ask anybody about it if you have not 


heard. I want also to impress upon your mind that 
if you ever make another bargain with an English 
publisher, you must talk guineas, not dollars, nor 
pounds. He will accept your numerals just as quick 
in guineas, and you will gain some six dollars in a 
hundred by it. It is the custom among artists and 
men of letters, so do not lower the standard. 

Saturday last we drove from this lovely place (a 
seventeenth century house in which the vile Judge 
Jeffreys was born, now the seat of a family of baronets 
the most amiable conceivable) to Hawarden Castle, 
the residence of the Prime Minister. We were dis- 
appointed in not seeing the Grand Old Man, who was 
detained in London by a cabinet council; but Mrs. 
Gladstone was at home and very gracious. I say 
all this merely as an introduction to the weighty 
fact that I saw on the drawing-room table a much- 
thumbed copy of "A Foregone Conclusion," and the 
Prime Ministress authorized and requested me to 
say to you how much she liked it. We went to-day 
to visit Chirk Castle, a grand old pile of the date of 
the thirteenth century, still in perfect preservation 
and always continuously inhabited since it was built. 
It was a royal appanage until Elizabeth's time, who 
sold it to the family who now live in it. This is the 
first thing of the sort I have ever seen except War- 
wick, and this is in many respects far finer. . . . 


To W. D. Hawetts 

December 20, 1882. 

. . . After I wrote you in Paris I saw some doctors 
who told me without collusion that if I would stay 
in Paris forty days and take douche baths I would be 
well. They were both great swells and the coinci- 
dence of their views rather struck me. I remembered 
also that it took exactly the same time in Noah's 
day, to cure the world of most of its infirmities by 
the same method; and so, like an ass, I gave up, or 
rather, postponed, my trip to the South, and went 
through my douches, with, of course, no result what- 
ever. I went back to my doctors and reported. One 
said: "Better stop your douches! go to Cannes and 
amuse yourself! You will soon be all right. Forty 
francs ! thank you ! good-bye ! ' ' 

The other said: "Eh bienl instead of six weeks, 
take three months of douches. Take them in Cannes, 
if you like, or in Nice" ; and with that he gave me an 
entire change of drugs; "Forty francs! thank you, 
ban voyage/' 9 There was nothing Noachian about 
three months, so I came away determined to do 
nothing he told me. . . . 

P.S. After shutting my letter I looked at the 
Christmas Harper's, and found, naturellement, that 


your farce l was the pearl of the collection. It made 
me laugh audibly which is mucho decir. I would give 
money to see it on the stage. There is a little wo- 
man at the Vaudeville who played in TUe de Linotte, 
who would be the best Mrs. Roberts on earth. But it 
would be impossible here, as a French sleeping-car is a 
sad parody on our glorious institution. It has no soci- 
ableness, no promiscuity, no chance for love or war. 
By the way, how James is catching it for his " Point 
of View"! 2 In vain I say to the Howling Patriot: 
"The point of view is clearly and avowedly the point 
of view of a corrupted mother and daughter, spoiled 
by Europe; of a filthy, immoral Frenchman; of a 
dull, well-meaning Englishman!" But they respond: 
"Miss Sturdy is James himself"; and as she says 
children are uproarious in America, and women's 
voices are higher than their manners, there is for- 
giveness for the writer. The worst thing in our time 
about American taste is the way it treats James. 
I believe he would not be read in America at all if 
it were not for his European vogue. If he lived in 
Cambridge he could write what he likes, but because 
he finds London more agreeable, he is the prey of all 
the patriotisms. Of all vices I hold patriotism the 
worst when it meddles with matters of taste. 

1 The Sleeping Car. 

1 The Portrait of a Lady was published that year. 


To J. G. Nicolay 

PARIS, March 8, 1883. 

... I have been so inert and lifeless since I came 
over here that I have not written a letter except on 
the stimulus of receiving one. I have never been so 
idle in my life. It was of set purpose, and I think it 
has been wholesome. 

To give you in a word our itinerary: We ar- 
rived in England the end of last July; spent a few 
weeks in London, and then went north; saw Lincoln, 
York, Edinburgh, and Aberdeen; then went to visit 
a Baronet in the Highlands named Sir John Clark, 
passed a delightful week with him, then went to the 
shore of the Northern Ocean at Inverness. Thence 
down the Caledonian Canal to Oban, Staffa, and 
lona. Then back to Hastings, where we had left the 
children during all these philanderings. We went up 
to London again after that; went to North Wales to 
visit another Baronet and M.P., Sir Robert Cunliffe. 
At his house we met the Judge Advocate-General 
in Gladstone's Government, Mr. Osborn-Morgan, 
M.P., who invited us to visit him, which we did, and 
passed a pleasant day or two in an Inigo Jones house 
in the mountains of Wales. Then we went on a 
regular debauch of English cathedrals: Hereford, 
Worcester, Gloster, Wells, and Salisbury; and after 


that, we broke for Hastings again; and after a week 
of rest by the summer sea we gathered up the whole 
caboodle and went over to Paris. 

I was still rather miserable and at last went to two 
doctors, W. B., an American Egyptian, and the fa- 
mous C., the same day. They both advised the same 
thing, douche baths, tonics, and bromides. I fol- 
lowed their prescriptions pretty faithfully, off and 
on, until now. In December we went to Cannes 
with the children, and that has been our home all 
the winter, and a delicious place it is, eternal 
June with an air loaded with orange blossoms. We 
made our little tour through Provence: Nlmes, 
Aries, Aigues-Mortes, Pont du Card, and a longer 
trip to Florence and Siena, where we met Howells. 

I am, I think, considerably better, though I have 
given up all hopes of being twenty-one again. 

We sail for home on the loth of May in the Ger- 
manic, and I hope to get to work immediately, or as 
soon as practicable after that. I saw the Comte de 
Paris at Cannes and he asked me to give you his 
Royal compliments. 

Thanks for the scrap. King did not write " Demo- 
cracy," nor did I. 

In the next two letters, addressed to Mr. Stone, 
Hay wrote to interest his correspondent; for the 


father-in-law was both sick in body and apprehen- 
sive in mind, at the signs of encroaching anarchy. 

To Atnasa Stone 

PARIS, March n, 1883. 


There is a feeling of deep distrust and anxiety in 
the public mind. A demonstration took place day 
before yesterday on the Esplanade des Invalides 
which might easily have become very serious. A few 
bakers' shops were pillaged and a crazy creature 
named "Louise Michel" tried to get the mob to 
march to the Elys6es Palace, but the cuirassiers 
came on the ground and dispersed them. Another 
riot was feared for to-day, and the streets are full of 
soldiers riding in every direction. Commerce is in a 
great state of prostration. The laborers have had the 
mischief put into their heads by trade-unions, etc,, 
and the consequence is that cheap merchandise is 
coming in from Germany and underselling the 
French on their own ground. Then the politicians 
in the Assembly are so eager for their individual ad- 
vancement that no government lasts more than a 
few weeks and a painful impression of uncertainty 
has thus grown up throughout France. 

. . . [Helen] has learned a good deal in the past 
year. She reads very well and has begun to write 


and knows a good deal of French. Del is half a head 
taller than she and is getting along pretty well in his 
studies also. They are all lively, but have caught 
little colds in this harsh and damp air. Paris is a 
poor place to live in. 

LONDON, May 2, 1883. 

... I have been reading the life of Carlyle, and 
the other day I walked down to the little house where 
he lived and died and near which his statue now 
stands in bronze. At your age he suffered precisely 
as you do, deep, nervous depression, persistent indi- 
gestion and loss of sleep a general disaster and irri- 
tation of the entire nervous system. His misery 
seems to have been of the keenest character. Yet he 
lived to be eighty-six years of age, and the last 
twenty-five years of his life were comparatively 
healthy and free from pain. I met the other day at 
dinner an old gentleman named H., eighty-two years 
old. He told me that between sixty and sixty-five 
his digestion seemed hopelessly impaired. He could 
eat and drink nothing and slept very little. Now he 
dines out every night and is the gayest of the com- 
pany wherever he is. I rely on your strong constitu- 
tion, your sober and moral life, the reserve of vital- 
ity you have about you, to wear out all your present 
troubles and to bring you to a healthy and happy con- 

4 i6 JOHN HAY 

dition again. You have so much to live for, to enjoy 
the results of the good you have done and to continue 
your career of usefulness and honor. 

Yours affectionately. 

To Henry James 

CLEVELAND, August 11, 1883. 


When I was in Florence, Larkin Mead l made for 
me a very admirable bronze medallion of Howells, 
and I write now to beg that if you find yourself soon 
in Florence again you will let him have a shy at your 
head also for me. I have written to him about it. It 
will give you almost no annoyance at all, as he works 
with great swiftness in such things, and if he suc- 
ceeds with you as well as he did with Howells, the 
portrait will do you no discredit and will be a great 
ornament to my house. 

I am nearly through my year's hard work, and am 
to start in a day or two with Nicolay to the Rocky 
Mountains for a few weeks' idleness. 

I greatly enjoyed your Daudet in the Century, 
though demurring a little at your undue generosity. 
Your palinode was excessive, I thought. He is a 
"great little writer." The "Evang&iste" is dreary, 

1 Larkin Goldsmith Mead, born in 1835, American sculptor; 
brother-in-law of W. D. Howells. 


the work of a genius smitten with locomotor ataxia; 
(if I had known that word was so long, I should never 
have begun upon it). There is no coordination in it. 
Besides, a man who is such an idiot morally can 
never sit down at meat with Shakespeare and you 
fellows. . . . 

To W. D. Howells 

COLORADO, September 9, 1883. 

. . . Nicolay and I are in camp in a most beautiful 
and rugged eyrie 9000 feet high, sometimes called 
Crystal Park, not far from Manitou Springs, which is 
our P.O. address. If you were here, but some day 
you will come. I am looking about for a place to 
build a hut, which I hope you will share with me. 
The bigness of the beauty of the place is something 
I am not able to describe and shall not try. I came 
away from Cleveland pretty wretched and am al- 
ready a good deal better. I will come earlier next 
year and stay longer. I expect to be here at least 
a fortnight more. . . . 

Having seen some of Hay's friendships during the 
first ten years of his married life, and having learned 
to know him better, we may now turn to the begin- 
nings of his political career. 




IURING the half-century following the Civil 
War, American development refutes the com- 
mon saying that war is good for a people because, in 
calling out their courage and requiring of them for- 
titude and self-sacrifice not less than valor, it puts 
them to the test of ultimate reality. In truth, how- 
ever, though there have been wars through all the 
ages, none has ever yet cured the most intimate so- 
cial diseases, but on the contrary, war causes these 
to flourish and it raises up other evils of its own. 

The two benefits which resulted from the Ameri- 
can Civil War were the abolition of slavery and the 
preservation of the geographical union of the United 
States. Among the evils it bequeathed were sec- 
tionalism, a diminished respect of the citizen for the 
State, the commutation of patriotism into pensions, 
the preferment of soldiers to civil offices for which 
they were unfit, the centralization of the national 
governmental power, and the unbridling of national 

Perhaps we should count as a third benefit the 
swiftness with which, in 1865, the Union and the 


Southern armies dissolved. Yesterday, a million 
soldiers hot from battle; to-day, as if transformed by 
a magician's wand, a million farmers, clerks, mer- 
chants, laborers, operatives busy again at their 
peaceful tasks. No military despotism; no truculence 
of Pretorian Guards; no Prussian war lord and his 
underlings compelling a nation to worship Moloch 
as the highest God. In the noblest qualities of a sol- 
dier, the Americans had never been surpassed; and 
yet they testified in disbanding that they knew that 
peace, not war, is the normal state, the ideal, of civ- 
ilized society. Small wonder that their muster-out 
roused the admiration of the world! 

But in subtler ways the Civil War harmed Amer- 
ican Democracy. It filled every civic office from 
president to hog-reeve with ex-soldiers. Five pre- 
sidents Grant, Hayes, Garfield, Harrison, and 
McKinley came into the White House, directly 
or indirectly, because of their military record. The 
corruption of an institution begins when those who 
pilot it are chosen for qualities contrary, if not for- 
eign, to its purpose. So, too, the desperate need of 
money to finance the war led to the adoption of a 
high tariff, which stimulated unhealthy production: 
and when the war was over, the beneficiaries of the 
tariff like the fever-patient who, on his recovery, 
finds the morphine habit fixed upon him demanded 


higher protection and still higher. The Republican 
Party already ominously strong because of its prestige 
in the Civil War, made Protection the cornerstone 
of its creed; and it veiled the fact that it was the 
capitalists' party by claiming to protect American 
labor; yet it revealed its true spirit in encouraging 
unrestricted immigration, in order to supply capital- 
ists with the cheapest labor. 

The captains of industry, the manufacturers and 
mine-owners and promoters, controlled the Govern- 
ment in so far as they caused it to fix the tariff rates 
they themselves dictated a denial of that princi- 
ple of equality which is the sheet anchor of Democ- 
racy. They were numbered by thousands, or at most 
by tens of thousands. The multitudes who beset 
the Government for favor and support through the 
pension system reached a million or more. Dignity, 
self-respect, honesty itself, succumbed to the temp- 
tation of the pension-mongers. Frauds were so fre- 
quent that the Pension Bureau ceased to allow the 
rolls of its beneficiaries to be inspected the most 
shameless official conniving at robbery this country 
has known. 

With the pensioners as with the capitalists the 
primal harm was not the shocking waste of public 
money but the debasement of civic ideals. The four 
thousand million dollars poured out to the veterans 


created a vast body of Americans who regard the Na- 
tional Treasury as fair prey for every rapacity. The 
conception that each citizen should defend public 
money from theft or waste even more scrupulously 
than he would a private trust, was dismissed as an 
iridescent dream. Another stab to Democracy, which 
cannot function perfectly unless every member is 

The influx of millions of foreigners raised further 
impediments. The aliens came mostly from countries 
where they had had little or no experience in self- 
government. They brought with them their tribal, 
their racial, their religious, and their international 
feuds. And as they transplanted to America the 
creeds of discontent and revolution which had long 
kept Europe alarmed, the word "proletariat " became 
naturalized here much sooner than many who bore 
it. They thrust the debate of the social revolution 
prematurely on the United States, and having never 
passed through the experience of constitutional meth- 
ods, they saw no alternative to the Despotism from 
which they had fled except the Socialism or the 
Anarchism to which they would blindly leap. 

On the surface, the half-century seemed pros- 
perously given up to money-making. Expansion was 
bound to come, but the artificial stimulus caused its 
rate and its extent to be unhealthily exorbitant. To 


watch a nation grow opulent is not necessarily more 
edifying than to watch the aurification of the indi- 
vidual plutocrat and what that is the Greeks typi- 
fied once for all in Midas. This process went on, how- 
ever, just as surely in Europe as in the United States. 
Some countries, like Germany, combined the mate- 
rializing pursuit of wealth with the brutalizing pur- 
suit of militarism. All had their scorn of the vulgar 
American dollar, and all encouraged their parasitic 
nobles to marry the daughters of American million- 
aires, and Kings and Kaisers prudently invested in 
American securities. Great is cant. 

These were some of the principles, unfavorable if 
not actively injurious, among which American De- 
mocracy had to maintain itself as best it could. In 
an industrial age, the government is inevitably con- 
trolled by the masters of industrialism. So the Re- 
publican Party, which was in power at the end of 
the Civil War, became by a quite natural metamor- 
phosis the capitalists' organ. 

Like millions of his contemporaries John Hay con- 
tinued to be a Republican, not because that party 
fostered plutocracy in granting special privileges 
to capital, but because, first of all, it had saved the 
Union, it had put down slavery. In his youth, it 
kindled his conscience. He had seen Lincoln guide 


its councils and direct its mighty forces to preserve 
Democracy on earth; his own associates had been 
chiefly Republicans. His instinct was, to suspect that 
the seeds of slavery and rebellion still lurked in the 
Democratic Party, although he did not question that 
individual Democrats were loyal and high-minded 
and just. That constitutional country cannot fail 
to suffer in which one party claims that it alone is 
patriotic. Such was the case in the United States 
for two decades after the Civil War. 

Hay was keen enough to see that thick-and-thin 
partisanship appears illogical, not to say absurd, to 
the eyes of pure reason ; he repudiated without demur 
this or that corrupt politician or party act: but he 
held that an institution must be judged by 'its essen- 
tials and not by its details, especially where these 
are unworthy. If, like most of us, he could not al- 
ways escape from the fallacy of his zeal, yet he was 
so genuinely open-minded that the dominant friend- 
ship of his life was with one who looked with pitying 
irony upon political and other orthodoxies and those 
who professed them. 

Except when Hay voted for Tilden for Governor 
of New York, his practice seems to have been consis- 
tently loyal. Republicanism, the creed of his youth, 
became the habit of his prime. It changed its prin- 
ciples; it drifted out of the old into the new; but it 


still harped on the glories of its origin, and it was 
never so insistent on posing as Abraham Lincoln's 
party as when it put forth doctrines most opposed 
to those which he stood for. 

Toward the end of the century, the Republican 
Party was avowedly the capitalists' party; and as 
such, because capital is timorous and wary and solic- 
itous of self, it became the stronghold of conserva- 
tism. Thereby it drew to itself, not merely the rich, 
but many others whom the dread of a social upheaval 
turned into conservatives. In this aspect, too, it 
attracted Hay, an unwavering lover of liberty 
but of liberty with order. He believed that the hope 
of the country, perhaps even of Western civilization, 
so far as this is based on property, depended upon 
maintaining the Republican Party as a breakwater 
against the rising tide of social revolution. 

But enough of general outlines of his political 
creed and its background. Let us examine now his 
attitude in special cases. Generalities give us only 
theories about life; particulars are life itself. 

During his career on the Tribune, Hay's knowl- 
edge of New York State politics, not less than his 
wide acquaintance with public men, led to his being 
called upon more and more for political editorials. He 
favored the Liberal movement of 1872, up to the time 


when the Democrats appropriated it and forced 
Greeley upon the unnatural combination. Then he 
supported Grant, and, in the succeeding four years, 
his Republicanism was unshaken, although he could 
not fail to detest the revelations of corruption in 
high places which scandalized the country. 

When the Greenback craze, the joint product of 
half-baked vagarists and professional demagogues, 
swept through the country, Hay saw clearly that, 
as this was not a party delusion, but a national 
menace, it was for the "honest money" men in both 
parties to unite and strangle it. His correspondence 
with Reid grows hot. 

To Whitdaw Reid 

24 September, 1875. 

... I am in a profound disgust about the cam- 
paign here. These bellowing, howling hounds expect 
to carry the State, and I have not heard of any Demo- 
crats who will bolt. I had a talk with Mr. P. the 
other day. He is for Allen, 1 although he has kept 
quiet; if Allen is elected, he (Mr. P.) would be in 
favor of the repeal of the Resumption Law. The 
Herald here is an inflation paper. The Leader is as 
straight as a string copies the Tribune every day. 
1 William Allen, Governor of Ohio, 1874-76. 


I do not see that you are called upon to modify 
your attitude in the least in New York. Bigelow l 
is sure to be elected by a big majority, and the whole 
ticket. You can say this, and not weep over it, with- 
out saying anything against Fred Seward. 2 There 
have never been two tickets so absolutely irreproach- 
able put before the voters of the State, and the plat- 
forms are about as good as they could be made. 

Think of this State with half the Republicans 
and all the Democrats inflationists at heart, and 
carrying on a campaign on the bald issue whether the 
nation shall be a liar and a thief or not. 

I don't like the job you propose to me of skinning 
that skunk. 

CLEVELAND, O., October i, 1875. 

... I think there is no trouble about the position 
of the Tribune. From now until election-day here, 
October 12, you can hold your present attitude. If 
Allen is elected, as I fear, it will then be advisable 
to make no bones about Pennsylvania, but say dis- 
tinctly that there is not a ghost of a chance for Hart- 
ranft, 8 at the same time keeping up a hot fight 
against the inflation Democrats. There is really no 

1 John Bigelow, Democratic Secretary of State in New York, 


9 Republican nominee for Secretary of State in New York. 
1 John F. Hartranft, Governor of Pennsylvania, 1873-77. 


Democratic or Republican Party left, and a man can 
with perfect consistency favor the one in one State, 
and the other in another. In case of the success of the 
Bill Allen crowd, the thing to work for is to strengthen 
the Tilden wing as much as possible, either to give 
them the control of the party, or to break up the 
party into the two natural fractions of honest men 
and thieves. The Republicans would then either fol- 
low suit or coalesce with the hard-money Democrats. 
The bad sign here, and I suppose everywhere, is 
that the inflationists are loud and bold, and the 

, , ^ f ( Republicans ) 

hard-money men, Democrats and < T . . > 

I Inflationists ) 

alike, are evasive and cowardly. 

The election of 1876 was the first turning-point 
since the end of the war. Hay sympathized with the 
widespread demand for purification; but he thought 
that this could be trusted to the Republicans rather 
than to the Democrats and Independents; and he 
therefore voted for Hayes, who had made a good 
governor of Ohio, and not for Tilden, who had given 
his.measure as a reformer by cleansing the Tammany- 
ized politics of New York. 

In the spring of that year, before the party con- 
ventions had nominated, Hay wrote enthusiastically 
to Reid: 


" If anybody wants a better pair of candidates than 
Tilden and Elaine, the two most prominent politi- 
cians of the two parties, he must wait till he gets to 
heaven and finds an absolute monarchy. Better 
men than these are not given to Republics." (April 
21, 1876.) 

Blaine was set aside by the Republicans, because 
of charges that he had used his position as Speaker 
to enrich himself. The proofs against him were his 
own letters; and although then and later he tried to 
explain away sentences which to posterity can have 
only one meaning, he never compassed his frantic 
desire to be President. In spite of proofs, however, 
many of his adherents refused to believe him guilty. 
Hay too was among the loyal; but in the campaign 
he gave his allegiance to Hayes, whom the Republi- 
cans chose in Elaine's stead. 

He writes from Cleveland to Reid, on November 

" I believe I won't say anything about election. 
I think the Tribune has nothing to regret except a 
few digs at Uncle Sam [Tilden] which were not quite 
fair, and your article on Wells, David A. Which 
well hold on let bygones be buried with the 
decomposed past! 

"Give my love to Taylor and Bromley, and tell 
them to sling a column and a half or so, in memory 


of one who wishes he was back at his desk Quid 
rides? 91 

In a letter to Mr. Howells, who had written a cam- 
paign biography of the Republican candidate, Hay 
speaks without reserve. His mention of Civil Ser- 
vice Reform reminds us of the beginnings of a move- 
ment for political purification of which David A. 
Wells, referred to in the preceding extract, was one 
of the bravest promoters. The "herd of wild asses 9 
colts" were Republicans, hungry for office, a fact to 
which Hay's Republicanism did not blind him. 

To W. D. Howetts 

CLEVELAND, O., February 20, 1877. 

I thank you for my share of the "Life of Hayes." 
It cheered and comforted me a good deal. The Gov- 
ernor's conduct for the last year has been a complete 
confirmation of all you said. I liked Tilden very 
much, voted for him for Governor, the only 
Democratic vote I ever cast. I did not vote for 
Greeley; but I never allowed myself to expect as 
much from any man as I feel forced now to hold from 
Hayes. We are in a bad way. That herd of wild 
asses 9 colts in Washington, braying and kicking up 
their heels, is an unsatisfactory result of a hundred 
years of Democracy. Of course I do not expect from 
Mr. Hayes a reform of the Civil Service. It is too 


much for any man to accomplish. Human nature 
and free suffrage are against it. But he can and will, 
I feel sure, chasten the outrageous indecency of the 
present system as much as any one could. . . . 

To Whitdaw Reid 

CLEVELAND, November 26, 1877. 

... I do not envy your feelings when you see 
who the successor of S. will be. I have carefully 
considered your objections to him. You evidently 
don't believe the shoddy or gun-stories, no more 
than I do. But you are agin him because he gives 
good dinners, and sometimes invites Democrats. 
This and the other infamy, that Mrs. S. once gave 
some private theatricals and reserved a few seats for 
the Diplomatic Corps, cooked his goose. Now this 
fixes you also. I have had good dinners at your 
house there were Democrats present, all the 
seats were reserved!! Good-bye, sweet prince, you 
can never be a foreign minister! 

On the other hand, the Tribune can feel cocky 
no-end over Platt and Conkling, 1 and thank heaven 
that the unclean things have never had its good 
word. How Nemesis has been sloshing around dur- 
ing the last year or two! Only she will be off duty 
when Butler * takes his seat in the Senate. 

1 T. C. Platt and Roscoe Conkling, New York politicians. 
9 Matthew C. Butler, of South Carolina. 


Hay's regard for President Hayes deepened as he 
watched that conscientious chief magistrate too 
often set down as mediocre, but conscience in high 
public station is never mediocre strive to give the 
country a worthy administration. He himself was 
becoming the confidant of some of the leaders of the 
party, and as his acquaintance was equally extensive 
in both Ohio and New York, the two States which 
carried more politics per capita than any others, he 
enjoyed the best opportunity for observing what was 
going on behind the scenes. His frequent visits to 
Illinois extended his political knowledge to the third 
pivotal State. 

During the campaign of 1879 he spoke several 
times in behalf of the Republican candidates. 
Speech-making, even when he had his manuscript 
before him, was always an ordeal. In composing, he 
alternated between buoyancy and depression: first, 
the hot fit, when ideas flamed into his mind ; then, the 
cold fit, when he read over what he had written and 
the words seemed gray and bleak and cold. He suf- 
fered by anticipation the misery of stage-fright. But 
once on the platform, although nervous to the end, 
he rarely failed to win his audience. This success 
came always as a surprise to him, and he used to 
chronicle it in his notes to his friends, not out of con- 
ceit, but as a bit of unexpected news which might 


surprise them too. "Luckily," he once said, "the 
shakes go to my knees and not to my voice." 

To Whitelaw Reid 

CLEVELAND, O., August 20, 1879. 


Into whose hands these lines may fall ', greeting: 
If it is Mr. Reid, hail! and welcome back to civil- 
If it is Lloyd or Nicholson, or some other d d 

literary feller 

I wish you would help our Shermanizing a little 
by sticking into your able and leading pages 
somewhere the 1f between the red lines. 
I made this speech last night in the strongest 
Democratic ward of Cleveland to an audience 
nearly half Democrats, and there was nothing 
but approval manifested. 

Yours in humble expectation, 

Reformed Tribune Man. 

August 25, 1879. 

... As you never read anything but proofs, per- 
haps the form in which this oration is printed may 
induce you to cast your eye over it. I am going to 
say it to a big crowd at North Solon day after to- 


morrow the Pioneers' Reunion, all others are 

We are having a red hot canvass, our side espe- 
cially ; I am invited to make four speeches this week, 
and am not on any Committee's list either. I shall 
try it a little slowly and gently at first, and find 
out whether I can. I don't call it making a speech 
unless a fellow can bore his audience heartily and 
thoroughly for an hour, without having written a 
word of it beforehand like William Allen and 

October 6, 1879. 

... I am making a speech nearly every night. 
Here is my last, made on the Square Saturday night 
to 5000 people, by the Brush light. Tell Mr. Phelps 
he bullied me into it last spring. 

October 15, 1879. 

... I left the house early last night, and spent the 
evening at the Globe Theatre, hearing the returns 
[of the Ohio election]. . . . 

Is n't it a frightful thing to think of, that half the 
people of Ohio vote so wickedly and blindly in favor 
of inflation and ruin, not to speak of nullification 
and other things? With all our tremendous work this 
summer, we have only a majority of two per cent. 
On such an issue we ought to have had a hundred 


thousand. But I suppose the Democratic Party is 

our Evil our virtue is developed by fighting it. 

The next extract is interesting. 
To Whitelaw Reid 

November 3, 1879. 

. . . Mr. Evarts has written me a most urgent and 
kind letter but I have declined the place. 

It now looks as if I could get the nomination for 
Congress, and I find, to my amazement, that I don't 
want it. This discovery strikes me dumb. 

Mr. Evarts, then Secretary of State, had, in fact, 
invited Hay to become Assistant Secretary. The 
offer was unexpected, the position attractive, but 
Hay decided that he ought to decline. 

To William M. Evarts 

October 28, 1879. 


I have your letter of the 24th and I cannot express 

the sentiments of gratification with which I have 

read it. To be offered the privilege of succeeding 

Mr. Seward * as Assistant Secretary of State is an 

1 Frederick W. Seward, son of Lincoln's Secretary of Stata. 


honor as far beyond my ambition as it is beyond my 
merits, and the generous courtesy with which you 
urge my acceptance of it, doubles the value of the 
offer. It is therefore with the greatest reluctance 
and with positive pain that I bring myself to say that 
I cannot assume the duties of this position which 
would otherwise be to me the most agreeable in the 
gift of the Government. Interests which I cannot 
disregard, make it impossible for me to be away 
from Cleveland this winter. 

I hope you will permit me to say that the keenest 
regret I feel in declining this position, is for the loss 
of the pleasure and benefit which I should derive 
from daily association with yourself. 

Begging that you will convey to the President my 
profound appreciation of the honor he and you have 
conferred upon me, and my sincere regret that it is 
impossible for me to avail myself of it, 

I remain, my dear Mr. Evarts, 

Faithfully yours, 

Mr. Evarts, however, was not to be gainsaid. 
Reinforcing his own urgence with that of Whitelaw 
Reid and of other friends, he soon had the pleasure 
of seeing Hay installed next door to himself in the 
State Department. There is little to record of Hay's 


specific work as Assistant Secretary, and the diplo- 
matic questions then up do not concern us here. 
He performed his duties satisfactorily to Mr. Evarts, 
for whom he kept through life an affectionate ad- 
miration. It was diamond cut diamond when they 
had a friendly interchange of wit. 1 

In Hay's development the main thing to notice is 
that the year and a half he spent in the State Depart- 
ment taught him the routine of that office, familiar- 
ized him with the methods of diplomacy, and intro- 
duced him to new groups, native and foreign. 

At the same time with Mr. Evarts's invitation 
came the suggestion from Hay's friends in Cleveland 
that he should enter Congress. No doubt he had 
cherished that idea; but being both temperamentally 
shy and too dignified to pound his way into any of- 
fice, he hesitated. 

11 The Congress matter," he wrote Reid on October 
21, 1879, " is not s simple as my high-toned friends 
think. All Euclid Avenue 2 says with one accord that 
I am the man, but E. A., with all its millions and its 
tone, does not influence a single primary, and there 
are four or five other candidates, who are all more 

1 I am assured that it was Hay and not Evarts who replied, when 
an English visitor at Mount Vernon asked, "Really, now, George 
Washington could not have thrown a dollar across the Potomac, 
could he?" "Why not? He threw a sovereign across the Atlantic." 
I have no means of verifying this. 

1 The fashionable street of Cleveland. 


or less strong with the 'boys/ I have not yet made 
up my mind whether to try for it or not." 

When it appeared, however, that the Republican 
managers favored him he consented to enter the lists. 
The district in question was so solidly Republican 
that a nomination meant an election. According to 
the simple system prevailing there, and still in 
happy operation elsewhere, for providing a docile 
people with mayors, governors, judges, and con- 
gressmen, the candidate needed only to pay to the 
party managers the price they demanded, and they 
relieved him of further anxiety. After election, while 
they divided and spent the spoils, he did his patri- 
otic duty, care-free, in the office which they delivered 
to him. 

The assessment levied on Hay was, apparently, 
twenty thousand dollars, an amount which he could 
not pay himself and which, if he had had it, he might 
have felt scruples against paying: for the transaction, 
no matter who acquiesces in it, comes down to the 
bald purchase of office. So the committee visited Mr. 
Stone, and after congratulating him on the shining 
honor about to grace his son-in-law, they hinted to 
him that nothing remained to close the bargain ex- 
cept a check. 

" Not a dollar shall you have of me" or words 
to that effect, put even more emphatically was 


the old gentleman's uncompromising reply. Perhaps 
the shrewd millionaire suspected that the whole af- 
fair was a ruse for tapping his barrel rather than for 
honoring his son-in-law. In any case he could not 
be moved, and no other friends or political admirers 
came forward. The project simmered through the 
winter; then the managers discovered that Hay was 
unavailable, and he withdrew. 

To Whitelaw Reid 

WASHINGTON, March 31, 1880. 

I ought to let you know as soon as any one else 
that I have definitely resolved not to run for Con- 
gress. I do not want it, and at last know that I do 

I think I could be nominated, and the nearness of 
the prospect set me to thinking of it harder than ever, 
with this result. I have written to my friends to 
put an end to the matter. 

We must regret that he was deprived of experience 
in Congress, the only field in his apprenticeship as 
a statesman in which he lacked first-hand training. 
A few years' service in the lower House, or a single 
term as Senator, would not only have rounded out his 
otherwise extraordinary equipment, but would have 
given him the understanding which comes only 


from fellowship with the very men who were later to 
sit in judgment on his statecraft. Journalism teaches 
its practitioner policies, party methods and interests, 
and the ways of individual politicians; but the com- 
manding editor is, properly, a critic. Between the 
critic and the doer a gulf, wide and rarely bridged, 
is set. So, too, the ambassador or the cabinet of- 
ficer, far from sympathizing with the Congressman's 
point of view, is unavoidably, from his position, in 
danger of misjudging it. The executive branch re- 
gards the legislative as meddlesome if not actually 
antagonistic. To his detriment, therefore, was Hay 
shut out from legislative training. 

If he felt chagrin at being dropped, he soon got 
over it, as this letter to Mr. Howells testifies. 

To W. D. Howells 

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 24, 1880. 

Thanks for M.'s letter, which I return. His idea 
is as judicious as it is daring. A club which would 
hold him and you and me, and then reach out for 
H. etc., and still keep modest, staggers and 
fatigues the faculty of wonder. I wish he and you 
would come down here and hold the first meeting of 
three at my house. 

I feel what the French call a deaf rage when I think 
of your having spent a week in Washington, and 


my not having seen Mrs. Howells at all, and you 
only a minute. If I were a saint, it would be enough 
for me to know that you had a pleasant visit your- 
selves; but I cannot help feeling like the Dutchman 
who, when he was in the calaboose and heard from 
a later arrival of an uproarious spree the night before 
when hogsheads of lager were drunk and two men 
killed, sighed with soft regret "And I was not 

I did not get the chance I wanted to avow my sin 
and ask absolution. I have positively and definitely 
given up Congress, and I shall hold no more office 
after next March. I think there is no such Apples- 
of-Sodom fruit in the world, and I am out, finally, 
as soon as I can get away. I would give a pot of money 
to get out to-day, nothing but my personal regard 
for Mr. Evarts keeps me through the administra- 
tion. Yet this is the pleasantest place in the govern- 
ment, and I like and respect the principal people in 
office, which makes an a fortiori case against any- 
thing else. . . . 

The contest between Garfield and Hancock in 
1880 should have been fought on the issue of Pro- 
tection, but the Democrats resorted to strategic re- 
treats which landed them far in the rear. Hay of 
course supported General Garfield, and how great 


a value the candidate set upon his advice is plain in 
the following letters: 

To General James A. Garfield 

Oct. 18, 1880. 


I did not come down on you while I was at Cleve- 
land, simply because I felt that the truest service I 
could render would be to stay away but as it will 
not take a minute of your time to read this note, I 
write it to offer my congratulations from the bottom 
of my heart. I believe that you will carry every 
Northern State and will go into the Presidency with 
the most magnificent moral backing any one has had 
in our time. I know you will feel no selfish gratifica- 
tion in this, but your opportunities for good will be 
incalculable. Great things are to happen under your 
administration. It would be an impertinence for me 
to intrude upon the high subjects that must now be 
occupying your mind. But even at the risk of seem- 
ing presumptuous I will rid myself of this word 
which has positively haunted me for a week. Be- 
ware of your own generosity ! On the 2d of November, 
you ("not Launcelot nor another") are to be made 
our President. I believe it is to be an administration 
full of glory and benefit to the country and it will 


be glorious and fruitful just in the proportion that it 
is your own. You do not need the whispered admoni- 
tion of the ancient monarchs, " Remember thou art 
mortal." It will pay you to keep a cheap friend to 
drone continually in your ear, "It was you who were 
nominated at Chicago and elected by the people." 

Soon after his election, General Garfield proposed 
making Hay his private secretary and assigning to 
the post a greater distinction than it had had, so 
that he would have ranked with members of the 
Cabinet. Having deputed Whitelaw Reid to sound 
him, and having had no answer, General Garfield 
wrote direct. To this letter Hay replied: 

To General Garfield 

Christmas Day, 1880. 

I received several days ago from Whitelaw Reid 
an intimation of what you were thinking of for me, 
and I immediately wrote to him expressing my deep 
sense of the honor done me by such a thought, and 
the sincere regret I felt that it was not in my power 
to take the place. I agree with you in regarding the 
position as one of the greatest importance and shall 
always be proud that you thought of me in connec- 
tion with it. 


Although my letter to Reid was confidential, I 
thought he would communicate to you the purport 
of it, but I infer from yours of the 2Oth that he has 
not done so. 

I have carried your letter in my pocket and the 
contents of it in my head and my heart, for several 
days, with the most earnest desire to catch myself in 
such a state of mind that I might write and tell you I 
would undertake the important and honorable duty 
you offer me. But I cannot delay my answer any 
longer, and so must say how sorry I am that I can- 
not see the way clear to doing it. If I could share 
your own view of my fitness for the place I should be 
inclined to sacrifice all other considerations and go 
to work. But I am not. 

To do a thing well a man must take some pleasure 
in it, and while the prospect of spending a year or so 
in intimate relations with you and Mrs. Garfield 
offers a temptation which is almost more than I can 
resist, the other half of the work, the contact with 
the greed and selfishness of office-seekers and bull- 
dozing Congressmen, is unspeakably repulsive to 
me. It caused me last spring to refuse, definitely and 
forever, to run for Congress. It has poisoned all of the 
pleasure I should otherwise have derived from a con- 
scientious and not unsuccessful discharge of my du- 
ties in the State Department. The constant contact 


with envy, meanness, ignorance, and the swinish 
selfishness which ignorance breeds, needs a stronger 
heart and a more obedient nervous system than I can 
boast. I am not going back on Democracy. It is a 
good thing the hope and salvation of the world. I 
mean simply that I am not fit for public office. You 
will find some one, I am sure, who can do these things 
much better than I could, and will take pleasure in 
them as well. 

All through the heats of last summer I looked for- 
ward to the 4th of March as the day of my deliver- 
ance. I promised my family, I promised Mr. Stone, 
who at considerable inconvenience has taken care 
of my affairs, that I would come home at that time 
and although I know that he would acquiesce 
cheerfully in anything I should do, I should feel some 
remorse in breaking up the family arrangements for 
the coming summer. I do not know that I have much 
hope of ever improving my health, but the doctors 
give me the usual futile assurances that I will be 
better out of Washington in the summer time. 

I did not mean to make a long letter of this, but 
the signal honor you have done me in selecting me 
for the place of the Government nearest yourself, has 
deeply touched me and I could not acknowledge it 
by a simple refusal. I felt that I ought to tell you 
some of my reasons for declining, although they are 


of a sort that a man of your firm and even character 
may think trivial and not entirely creditable to me. 

There is work for all of us during the next four 
years, and though you are to have the great rdle, 
all men of good-will can help more or less. I shall 
do my share in Cleveland, and now that I am cured 
of my momentary error about going to Congress, 
I can do better work than I have ever done before. 
I shall have a good deal of leisure and shall always 
be at your service for anything "except these 

Mrs. Hay sends her regards to Mrs. Garfield. I 
have of course talked fully with her. She saw both 
sides of the question, but resolutely refused to assist 
me in the decision. 

Sincerely and gratefully yours. 

Evidently General Garfield continued to urge: for 
Hay soon sent this second letter: 

WASHINGTON, D.C., December 31, 1880. 


I have given strict and earnest thought to the mat- 
ter of your offer all this week, but I cannot see any 
reason to change my mind. Every word I have heard 
was in favor of accepting, at first, but in every case, 
Reid, Mr. Sherman, Mr. Stone and my wife, 
agreed with me in the end. Even Nichol that 


Justus et tenax propositi vir gave up the fight this 
morning after a campaign of as faithful work as I 
ever saw. I have myself been on the affirmative side 
in all my wishes and desires but the reason, I feel 
sure, is on the other. I know I should not be the help 
to you which you have thought, but I should be, in 
the White House, the source of many embarrass- 
ments and complications. 

I deeply regret that I am compelled to decline 
this most agreeable and honorable service. I wish I 
could make you see that I do it in your interests 
more than in my own. I have had to resist constantly 
the temptation offered by the pleasures and enjoy- 
ments which such a position promises. But regret- 
ting all this as I do, I know that my decision is right. 

There are many things in which no man can serve 
you. There are paths which you must traverse ab- 
solutely alone. The solitude which seems to you a 
penalty of your high office, you will find a blessing 
which can only be gained by wrestling. The foot- 
pad, the cut-purse, and the sycophant will always be 
ready to crowd their company on you. You will 
find reserve only among honest men. 

I wish I could save you one moment of annoyance 
or perplexity but it is hardly possible that anyone 
can do that. It is a comfort to know you go into 
the Presidency with the best equipment possible. 


Besides the qualities which are personal to you, you 
know more of the past and present of government, 
more history and more politics, than any man since 
the younger Adams, and you are free from his pe- 
culiar infirmities of temper, which so narrowed and 
distorted his views. "One thing thou lackest yet"; 
and that is a slight ossification of the heart. I woe- 
fully fear you will try too hard to make everybody 
happy an office which is outside of your constitu- 
tional powers. Confine your efforts in that direction 
to Mrs. Garfield and the children. As for other mat- 
ters, do as you think right, and it will be right nine 
times in ten and not far wrong the tenth time, though 
the heathen rage and the people imagine a vain thing. 
Mrs. Hay joins me in wishing all good things for 
you and Mrs. Garfield. 

Faithfully yours. 

The President-elect ran into foreboding squalls 
in attempting to form his Cabinet. The penalty 
which a party long in the ascendant must pay is dis- 
cord : and the Republicans were now split into sev- 
eral factions which either professed mutually con- 
flicting principles or rallied to the standards of rival 
leaders. Elaine and Conkling captained the two 
largest divisions of the party; but several of the 
States New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, to 


name no more boasted their local heads, as proud 
and as grasping as chieftains of Scottish clans. It 
was Garfield's business to endeavor to harmonize 
the dissidents: but harmony could mean only the 
preference of one faction to the other; and as he had 
been elected by the forces which united to defeat 
Grant's nomination for a third term, the forces 
led by Elaine, he unavoidably promoted Elaine, 
and, in order to requite the Independents who had 
contributed to his victory, he appointed two of them 
Wayne MacVeagh and Thomas L. James to 
his Cabinet. 

Stung at being passed by, Conkling and his faction 
swore vengeance, which they believed they were 
strong enough to carry out. Garfield, the good- 
natured, still sought to temporize, in the hope of 
making everybody happy; and besides the sullen 
11 Stalwarts," he had to appease the usual party war- 
horses privateers in quest of any office, who were 
braying lustily for fodder. 

To President-Elect Garfield 

February 20, 1881. 


The rumors of the last day or two have been very 
disturbing but I have no doubt that we will have 
"clear or clearing weather" next week. 


I write because you told me to not because 
I think you need this continual buzzing. I suppose 
no man in America saw more clearly than you did 
the prodigious importance of the omens in the Phila- 
delphia and Pittsburg elections. The Ring is broken; 
it can still nominate, but it cannot possibly elect. 
The course you hinted at will satisfy every exigency 
in Pennsylvania. Illinois and the great " Stalwart " 
influence of the Northwest is already as good as se- 
cured, I imagine. Your enemy is only threatening 
in one direction, and only threatening there so long 
as his hostility is masked. 

It is again reported from Ohio that Foster l is to 
go into the Cabinet or abroad. I think all the most 
judicious men in the State would regret either course. 
This restlessness of our leading men is a great evil. 
It seems impossible for a leading Republican ever 
to stay where he is put, or to go into private life. I 
speak only as an Ohio Republican, without any 
wishes for myself or any other man, desiring only 
the success of your administration, when I say it 
seems to me impossible that any Ohio man should 
now go into your Cabinet unless you should think 
it necessary after all to retain Sherman. 2 And you 
know what that would be. 

1 Charles Foster, an Ohio politician; later Governor of the State. 

2 Senator John Sherman. 


Every other consideration is unimportant com- 
pared with the advantage of having a Cabinet of good 
men. That recommends itself. Factions and locali- 
ties are of infinitely little moment compared with 
that single consideration. 

But I am wasting your time with platitudes. You 
are walking with your " head in a cloud of poisonous 
flies," and we cannot resist the temptation of taking 
a flick at them now and then. 

Our hearts, our hopes are all with you. We 
are eager to see you here, and the administration 

Yours with respect and affection. 

John Hay went from the State Department to the 
editor's office of the New York Tribune. Under any 
circumstances to plunge into such work would have 
been formidable; for Hay the task was doubly hard 
because he took it up at the time when the Repub- 
lican tempest broke. Conkling resigned his United 
States Senatorship in rage because Garfield ignored 
his candidates. His colleague Thomas C. Platt, 
then a political cipher nicknamed "Me Too" 
Platt for his apery followed suit. But, contrary 
to Conlding's expectations, the sun rose as usual the 
next morning, the Government at Washington pur- 
sued its diurnal routine, and even in New York 


State there were few who lost either sleep or appetite 
over the theatrical resignations. 

The open warfare between the factions laid an 
additional burden of responsibility on Editor Hay. 
He could not be sure that he was running the Tribune 
in each crisis as Whitelaw Reid would have done, and 
therefore he wisely concluded to run it as seemed best 
to himself. By common consent the editorial page 
was never more vigorous. Somebody with a taste 
for epigrams said : " The rule of the paper under Reid 
was that of whips, while with Hay it was that of 
scorpions." Assuredly, Hay did not spare the ene- 
mies of the Administration, and among his many 
talents that of invective was not the least. The mem- 
bers of the editorial staff found him strict in requir- 
ing punctuality and in judging the quality of their 
work, but always friendly and reasonable. An emi- 
nent journalist wrote of him after his death, that 
"he was like father, brother, philosopher, guide, and 
friend, all in one." 

To Whitelaw Reid 

NEW YORK, May 26, 1881. 

So you are married one month from to-day and 
I am Editor of the Tribune ad interim the same 
length of time. I hope your experience has been less 


stormy and more amusing than mine. What a time 
we have had ! l I do not regret it in the least as a 
fight like this has been a godsend in what would 
otherwise have been a dull season. I think we have 
got on very well behind none of them in news and 
out of sight in editorial. I will not indulge in proph- 
ecy with half a dozen cables between us, but to speak 
of certainties, Roscoe [Conkling] is finished. That 
Olympian brow will never again garner up the thou- 
sands of yore. Of course we shall have a bad state 
of things for a while and shall almost certainly lose 
the State next fall. But that will be after your return, 
and I can charge it to my leaving the Tribune. 

The whole thing has been a freak of insanity on 
the part of a man who has lost sight of his true rela- 
tions with the rest of the world. It was the logical 
result of the personality of Conkling and the work- 
ings of the Boss system. 

Schurz 2 begins his editorial work on the Post 
to-day with a long, serious leader on civil service 

Miss R. is, I think, looking better than when you 
left. She plays the banjo and piano rides and 
receives visits and seems very gay and happy. 

1 The fight over the appointment of a Collector of the Port of 
New York. 

1 E. L. Godkin, Carl Schurz, and Horace White were joint edi- 
tors of the New York Evening Post. 


So far nothing has happened over here to disturb 
your equanimity or cloud your honeymoon. Enjoy 
yourself as much as possible. I think we can keep the 
ship off the rocks. 

To Whitelaw Reid 

June 29, 1881. 

... I think there is nothing over here which 
need trouble you. The Tribune seems to suit every- 
body but the ungodly. Hugh Hastings goes for me 
every day in eight or ten places, but as it amuses him, 
and I have adopted my great patent remedy of not 
reading him, I only know it from Bishop and Miss 
Hutchinson, who come in to console me when he is 
unusually violent, and so I do not object to it. 
The Chicago Tribune had a lot of filthy little digs at 
both you and me, till I frankly asked Joe Medill to 
put a stop to it, which he did. It was the volunteer 
malignity of some "funny man" who wanted a 
4 ' shining mark." That is to me one of the most curi- 
ous things in our journalism the way a man who 
has never seen you and knows nothing about you, 
will take a furious antipathy to you and blackguard 
you for months together, without letting up. 

On July 2, President Garfield was shot by the half- 
crazy Guiteau. Throughout the summer he hung 


between life and death. Outwardly, there was more 
moderation in the virulence of the political quar- 
relers; but they knew that at the President's death 
the flames would burst out afresh. 

To Whitelaw Reid 

September 14, 1881. 

I am glad to hear from you once in a while, and the 
long intervals only serve to convince me that you 
are having too good a time to bother about writing 
letters. Enjoy every moment of the time, for it will 
never come back again, and though you are, I trust, 
to have many long years of married happiness, you 
will never have the first year over again. Mrs. Hay 
and I are very anxious to go to Europe next year, but 
we hardly dare promise ourselves that we will go, 
because of the three small people whom we cannot 
leave behind, and to take whom will be a constant 
source of anxiety. 

I am getting on so far toward the end of my inter- 
im-ity that I am comparatively easy about the rest 
of it. I do not see that I have made any serious mis- 
takes. Thurlow Weed paid me the high compliment 
the other day of saying that he was a little afraid at 
first I would not know the State well enough, but 
that he had long ago forgotten that I was not a New 


Yorker. Of course the credit of it is mostly due to the 
staff but I have paid great attention and killed a 
good deal of matter which might have been embar- 
rassing. I have as far as possible steered clear of rows 
without making the paper seem feeble. If it had been 
my paper I would have taken the hide off two or three 
blackguards but I did n't want to commit you to 
new quarrels. If Gar field lives, I think you will find 
the paper in excellent position, when you return, to 
give it any direction you see fit. That has been my 
special object for the last half of my time. 

President Gar field died on September 19. When 
the Reids returned in October, Hay retired from the 

That the friend and adviser of presidents, the in- 
timate of cabinet ministers and party managers, 
whose fitness no one denied, should be habitually 
shut out from public service excites our wonder. 
When Mr. Evarts sought the most competent Assis- 
tant Secretary of State he could think of, he asked 
John Hay. When the editor of the chief Republican 
newspaper in the United States sought a substitute 
for himself, he chose John Hay. Why was no perma- 
nent office opened to him? 

The hints given in this chapter should help us to 
a clue. Hay's own remark, in a letter to Whitelaw 


Reid, who had been offered and had declined the 
Berlin mission, will further enlighten us. Apparently, 
when Reid declined, Hay was " mentioned" for the 

" I thank you for what you said of me, but 
don't grin at this! Mr. Evarts was right about it. 
I have not the political standing necessary for the 
place neither had Taylor. 1 I tried to say a word 
to Taylor about it when he was here, but he was deaf 
to any such considerations. Now you may believe it 
or not, but I would not accept the mission to Berlin 
if it were offered to me. I know I am not up to it in 
many respects. At the same time I am free to say I 
would like a second-class mission uncommonly well. 
I think White's 2 appointment an excellent one, 
though I imagine you don't agree with me on that." 
(March 30, 1879.) 

Hay turned now in earnest to the "Life of Lin- 
coln," on which, as on a giant obelisk, he and Nico- 
lay had been hewing at intervals for a long time past. 

1 Bayard Taylor, appointed Minister to Germany in 1877; died 
the next year. 
1 Andrew D. White, just appointed Minister to Germany.